Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 12:32 UK

Dangers facing nation's firefighters

There were 10 firefighter deaths between 1997 and 2007

The two firefighters killed while tackling a blaze in Southampton are the latest casualties of a dangerous profession.

James Shears, 35, and Alan Bannon, 38, of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, died while tackling a fire at a high-rise block of flats on Tuesday. All the residents were rescued.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said firefighters across the UK "will be devastated" by the events in Southampton.

"Firefighters work extremely closely together and share challenges and danger," he added.

"Losing a colleague is something that touches everyone and that firefighters never get over."

According to a Parliamentary answer, 10 firefighters died on duty in England between 1997 and the start of 2007.

In recent years the worst case of firefighter deaths was in November 2007 when four members of Warwickshire Fire Service died at a burning vegetable packing plant at Atherstone-on-Stour.

After every serious incident it is imperative that lessons are learned to avoid similar tragedies in the future
Peter Holland, Chief Fire Officers' Association

Darren Yates-Badley, 24, John Averis, 27, and Ashley Stephens, 20, were killed and their colleague Ian Reid, 44, was rescued from the fire but died in hospital.

In July of last year, 35-year-old firefighter Ewan Williamson died while tackling a blaze at a pub in Edinburgh.

He was killed and one of his colleagues was injured when a floor inside the building collapsed.


Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service lost two members of its Blue Watch in Stevenage during 2005, when Jeff Wornham, 28, and Mike Miller, 26, were killed in a flat fire.

And Blue Watch's Sub Officer Paul Mallaghan, 46, was killed in June 2007 when he was hit by a vehicle as he tackled a car fire on the A1M near Stevenage.

James Shears [left] and Alan Bannon
James Shears and Alan Bannon worked for Hampshire Fire and Rescue

East Sussex firefighters Geoff Wicker, 49, and Brian Wembridge, 63, died in a blaze at a fireworks factory in Shortgate, near Lewes, in December 2006.

London Fire Brigade members Adam Meere, 27, and Bill Faust, 36, were killed tackling a fire in Bethnal Green, east London in July 2004.

Off-duty fireman Alex Kent, 25, was killed in January 2003 trying in vain to rescue his brother Phil, 23, from a blaze at the family home in Crowborough, East Sussex.

The King's Cross Underground fire in London in 1987, where 31 people were killed, also included firefighter Colin Townsley.

There were no firefighter deaths in 1997, 1998 or 2001, and one in each of 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003, while two were killed on operations in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Peter Holland, vice president of the Chief Fire Officers' Association, said the deaths in Southampton served "as a tragic reminder that firefighting remains a difficult and dangerous job.

"Firefighting in high-rise buildings presents particular challenges to fire and rescue services who work closely with housing authorities to help them provide adequate fire precautionary measures.

"After every serious incident it is imperative that lessons are learned to avoid similar tragedies in the future."

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