Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

'Errors' led to firemen's deaths

Bill Faust
Billy Faust was a father-of-three

The father of a fireman who died on duty has said a series of errors caused by a lack of training led to the death.

Billy Faust, 36, and Adam Meere died in July 2004 fighting an intense fire in Bethnal Green, east London.

Mr Faust's father Dave said he was also concerned about firefighters on active duty having to teach community initiatives such as fire safety.

But Sir Ken Knight, the government's fire service adviser, said he believed the right balance was being struck.

Mr Meere, 27, had been a fully qualified firefighter for two months when he and father-of-three Mr Faust, entered the basement of the three-storey building - where the fire is thought to have been caused by a cigarette.

Systemic failures

An inquest in 2006 was told communication problems and an inadequate water supply were contributory factors in the deaths of both men.

A hose reel burned through and more powerful water jets were not used because officers did not realise the strength of the flames.

The inquest also heard that 30 minutes passed between the order being given to use a fire hydrant, and the water being used.

Fire crews at the scene of the fire
The men died after going back into the building

Mr Faust said: "I do not seek to blame any individuals for the errors that were made, but I am absolutely clear that the catalogue of errors that led to my son's tragic death were the result of systemic failures of the fire service to adequately train both firefighters and fire officers."

The Fire Brigade Union believes firefighters spend too much time in the community teaching people about the dangers of fire rather than learning more about how to tackle fires and other incidents.

It wants community education to be carried out by non-operational officers and other groups.

Mr Faust said: "I think it's a job that needs to be done, it does need to continue to be done but not by serving firefighters."

Sir Ken Knight said: "Firefighter safety is paramount, because otherwise they couldn't do the job which is incredibly important, and there is a balance between community safety and firefighter safety and firefighter training.

"And I think all of that balance is very possible indeed with the availability of time and we see that balance taking place."

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