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Sunday, 24 November, 2002, 00:30 GMT
Fifth death in firefighters' strike
The house in Kent
The man was pulled out by military crews
Five people died in house fires and the home of a striking firefighter was attacked on the second day of the national fire dispute.

In the early hours of Saturday, 27-year-old Matthew James Thatcher was pulled from his home in Maidstone in Kent by military crews wearing breathing apparatus but died later in hospital.

In Oxfordshire just after midday, a 90-year-old man died at his home in the village of Woodstock. And on Merseyside a woman died after crews arriving at the scene just after 1500 GMT found her home well alight.

Another of the fatal house fires, at premises in Earlsden in Coventry, is being treated as suspicious.

Matthew James Thatcher
Military crews brought out Matthew Thatcher
The fifth death happened at a caravan park at Staining near Blackpool when crews found a body inside a burning caravan.

Thirty-six military personnel were also involved in tackling a factory fire in Oldham overnight on Saturday.

Police threw a cordon around the JBS Testing Centre in Barry Street after it emerged a number of flammable chemical canisters were on site.

Meanwhile, Warwickshire police have confirmed they are investigating an arson attack on the home of a striking firefighter on Saturday morning.

It is believed that burning paper was stuffed through the letterbox of his home in Kenilworth while he was on picket duty in Leamington Spa.

The man's wife, and his two children were asleep at the time but were alerted by a smoke alarm and managed to put out the blaze themselves.

Car crash

On the house fire in Kent, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "The Breathing Apparatus Rescue Team arrived and went into the building and brought the person out.

"The Kent Fire Brigade arrived shortly after that and helped the Breathing Apparatus Rescue Team tackle the fire and then the Green Goddesses arrived."

In Oxfordshire, crews broke down the door of a house in Plane Tree Way, and found the elderly man inside.

Elsewhere, two people, one of them thought to be a child, died in a car crash near Norwich, which was attended by military crews with special cutting gear.

House fire in Woodstock, Oxfordshire
A 90-year-old man died in Woodstock, Oxfordshire

The Norfolk collision involved a car and a lorry on the A47 west of Norwich.

On the M6 in Birmingham, between junctions 5 and 6 southbound, a lorry carrying plastic caught fire.

The temperature at the site was so intense, that a joint on the overhead section of the carriageway melted.

Crews attending the scene were hampered by a lack of water and had to drive to the next junction to fetch it.

In Lancashire striking crews in Skelmersdale left the picket line to attend a chip pan fire.

They were there several minutes before the military arrived in Green Goddesses.

It has now been decided that all stations where FBU members are on strike, will be told of incidents where life is thought to be in danger.

Elsewhere on Friday night, striking firefighters temporarily suspended their action to deal with a serious road accident in Southampton.

Six firefighters from Highton left the picket line in a red engine to deal with a head-on collision between two cars in Bubb Lane, West End.

Lorry fire on M6
Part of the M6 melted in the intense heat

In Wokingham, Berkshire, a Green Goddess crew helped three people who became trapped in a car that had spun off the road and into a stream at Redlake Lane.

A suspected arson attack at an address in Devonport, Devon, meant Royal Navy temporary firefighters were called out just before 0200 GMT. No-one was hurt.

The Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon visited members of the armed services in Nottingham.

The Minister was taken round a temporary fire station at Chetwynd Barracks in Beeston.

Meeting with members 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, he said: "We have never pretended that this was going provide the kind of cover the Fire Service offers but these personnel are here for an emergency."

About 19,000 military personnel are providing fire cover during the stoppage.

Factory fire

Green Goddesses in the north east were called out just 11 times during Friday night and the early hours of Saturday.

There were more than 70 calls to emergency command centres across Cleveland, County Durham and North Yorkshire overnight.

Control room staff say they received 10 hoax calls.

Elsewhere on Friday night, about 100 soldiers took more than two hours to bring a major factory fire in West Bromwich under control.

Eighteen appliances including four Red Goddess and four rescue teams attended the blaze at the Plastics Factory on Phoenix Street.

The disused factory is close to a petrol station and an industrial estate. The building was destroyed but neighbouring buildings were saved.

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22 Nov 02 | England
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