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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 14:02 GMT
Dying in the line of duty
Fire engine
Only one firefighter has died on duty since 1999
The firefighting profession is a dangerous one, but the death of Bob Miller in a blaze in Leicester has shocked colleagues and bosses across the fire service.

Figures from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) show that at least 29 firefighters in the UK lost their lives doing their job between 1990 and 1999.

Bob Miller's death was the first since 1999, when sub-officer Paul Metcalfe died trying to rescue a drowning teenager.

Fire
The fire which killed Bob Miller took two hours to control

He had been attempting to save student Reyaz Ali, 16, after he plunged into a lake at Simon's Lodge in Holcombe Brook, near Bury, Greater Manchester.

Mr Metcalfe, acting on his own initiative, waded into the lake with two colleagues.

All three firefighters had ropes around their waists.

It is believed that Mr Metcalfe's rope became snagged on branches in the water, pulling him under for 15 minutes.

His colleagues, with a police officer, dragged him to the shore but he died in hospital. Reyaz also died in the incident.


As everybody is running away from the fire and the danger, we run towards it

Dave Patton, FBU

In 1996 Fleur Lombard, 21, became the first female firefighter to die on duty in peace-time Britain.

She was struck by falling debris as she and a colleague entered Leo's supermarket in Staple Hill, near Bristol, which had been set alight in an arson attack.

She was later awarded posthumously the Queen's Gallantry Medal in recognition of her bravery.

Her colleague, leading firefighter Robert Seaman, who survived the blaze, received the George Medal for bravery.

Three days after Ms Lombard's death, part-time firefighters Kevin Lane, 32, and Stephen Griffin, 42, were killed in a house fire at Blaina, Gwent.

Confronting fear

Since Paul Metcalfe's death, training methods and procedures have been continuously updated and modified to reduce the daily risk.

But the death of Mr Miller, 44, a dedicated firefighter with 25 years' service, has proved the risk is still far too real.

Dave Patton, national officer for health and safety at the FBU, said being killed is a fear firefighters confront on each emergency call.

"As everybody is running away from the fire and the danger, we run towards it," he said.

"That's the commitment we put into the job.

"When you go in to tackle a fire, you expect and hope to come out with your colleagues.

"When something tragic happens like this, it brings it home to you just how dangerous this job is."

See also:

31 Oct 02 | England
31 Oct 02 | UK
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