Page last updated at 07:49 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 08:49 UK

Two firefighters killed at Southampton flats


Tower block resident: "There was smoke pouring into our flat"

Two firefighters have been killed while tackling a fire at a high-rise block of flats in Southampton.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire broke out at the 15-storey Shirley Towers in Church Street shortly after 2000 BST on Tuesday.

A further two firefighters suffered minor burns to their hands in the incident and were taken to hospital.

Chief fire officer John Bonney said the death of the two firefighters had left "a devastating hole" in the service.

I grabbed my daughter and told my friend we have to get out
A mother who lives in one of the blocks

A spokesman for the fire service said the identities of the killed firefighters would not be released until their families had been informed.

An investigation into the fire, which was thought to have started on the seventh floor of the building, is being carried out by police and fire officers.

Residents were evacuated from the building, one of Southampton's tallest, and were provided with emergency accommodation by the city council.

Nearby roads were cordoned off by police as up to 20 fire engines were called to the scene and firefighters from neighbouring counties were called in to help.

Map of Shirley

Mr Bonney said it was an "incredibly difficult and sad time" for the fire service.

He added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this tragic time and we are giving them all the support we can.

"This is not only a devastating loss to our service but is a loss to the whole fire service community.

"During these incredibly difficult circumstances, firefighters at the scene undertook the successful evacuation and rescue of a number of people.

I looked out of my kitchen window, looked up and saw black smoke coming out of the flats
Shirley Towers resident Ross Simpson

"Their professionalism, under truly difficult conditions, has been admirable and a testament to our service."

A joint police and fire service investigation into the cause of the fire is under way and the Health and Safety Executive has been informed.

One mother, who lived in the flats, said: "I looked out of the window and I saw all the smoke.

"I grabbed my daughter and told my friend we have to get out."

Another resident, still in her dressing gown, said: "It is horrifying, I just cannot believe it."

Ross Simpson, a Shirley Towers resident, told BBC Radio Solent he was watching a DVD when he first realised a fire had broken out.

"Around about 8.15pm I just heard sirens around the block," he said.

"I looked out of the window and saw a group of people outside and I saw fire engines turn up.

"I looked out of my kitchen window, looked up and basically, saw black smoke coming out of the flats."

Pregnant daughter

Mr Simpson sent a mobile text to "a couple of friends and told them the fire was on their side of the block".

"I think the ninth floor was actually where the fire was.

"My condolences go out to the two firefighters' families."

Mr Simpson was one of many residents led down the stairs during the evacuation.

Meanwhile, Brian Pond, who helped one of the injured firefighters, was trapped on the seventh floor with his pregnant daughter for more than two hours.

"One of his colleagues shouted out for some water for his hands," he said.

"So the [firefighter] came into my flat and we stuck his hands in the sink, ran the water for 20 minutes.

"He was saying how terribly hot it was in there and then they left - probably for the hospital."

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