Harrow Court: Fire Service and Council slammed by Fire Brigades Union

Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Stevenage Borough Council were slammed by the Fire Brigades Union at the end of the inquest on Friday into the deaths of two firefighters and a young woman at Harrow Court in the town in February, 2005. Firefighte

Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Stevenage Borough Council were slammed by the Fire Brigades Union at the end of the inquest on Friday into the deaths of two firefighters and a young woman at Harrow Court in the town in February, 2005.

Firefighters Michael Miller and Jeff Wornham died in the fire along with resident Natalie Close.

The union was severely critical of the fire service and said in a statement: "The FBU investigation concluded that Hertfordshire Fire Authority did not put in place what was needed to allow their fire crews to fight this fire safely.

"The Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service failed to put in place proper procedures, did not have adequate training and did not send enough firefighters to the initial response to tackle this fire safely."


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The union also hit out at the council in their conclusions saying the council may have contributed to the death of Mr Wornham in that they failed to ensure their contractors complied with BS5839-1, 2002 in respect of precluding the use of plastic trunking for securing the electrical cabling of their common area fire alarm system in Harrow

Court.

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After deliberating for over three hours the jury returned a verdict of accidental death on Ms Close, who died of smoke inhalation, and a narrative verdict on both firefighters.

The verdict on the two men means the jury unanimously agreed on their answers to 20 points given to them by coroner Mr Edward Thomas.

These were the date and location of the fire, why the smoke alarm in the flat was not working, were the crews attending initially familiar with high-rise procedures and the building? the cause of the fire, how the padlocking of the dry risers came about, the use by the crews of bolt cutters at the incident, the number of pumps and the roles of the personnel originally attending, the stage in the incident that further resources were requested, was a bridgehead established and if so when? At what stage did firefighters Miller and Wornham enter the flat without hoses charged? How was one of the occupants of the flat rescued, did the absence of a self-closing device on the door of flat 85 contribute to the fire development-initially in the flat and in the lobby? Did the absence of a self-closing device deprive Jeff Wornham of protection from the fire while trying to escape through the lobby? Where were the deceased found, at what stage had they died and when were they found? Did Mike Miller and Jeff Wornham die of acute thermal injury? In respect of each of them, where were they when they were exposed to that injury? Did Jeff Wornham come into contact with cables? If Jeff had contact with the cables, what contact was there? If Jeff had contact with the cables, when did it take place? Finally if Jeff had contact with the cables, it is more likely than not that he would have survived but for the contact.

The cause of death of both firefighters was thermal injuries.

Mr Thomas paid tribute to the bravery of both men.

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