Report lists ‘catalogue of organisational systematic failures’ over firefighter deaths

The Fire Brigades Union has published a report into the deaths of four firefighters, including two from Alcester in 2007, blaming a ‘catalogue of organisational systematic failures’ by Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service for the tragedy.

The union’s 28-page Fatal Accident Investigation report, which was published on Tuesday, February 4, examines exactly what happened during the fire at the Wealmoor vegetable packing plant in Atherstone on Stour, on November 2, 2007, which resulted in the deaths of Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley.

Matt Wrack, the Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said: “Firefighters and bereaved families have been asking questions for a number of years about why firefighters are being killed at incidents which the service should have planned to deal with.

“We think this highlights deep and systemic failures across the UK fire and rescue service and we are determined to get to the bottom of what is going wrong.”

The report highlighted severe problems with the way risk was assessed during the incident, as well the poor quality of information made available to the incident commander as to where the fire was, and the size and contents of the room where it was located on the plant’s first floor.

Concerns are raised over the way firefighters inexperienced in wearing breathing apparatus were nominated to enter the building, and problems with training, particularly for retained firefighters, such as those coming from Alcester to the incident.

Matt Wrack added: “The deaths of these four brave men were caused by a catalogue of systemic failings at Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“Over the last decade, twice as many firefighters lost their lives in fires as in the previous ten years, and it’s clear that fire and rescue services and government are not learning lessons from these deaths.

“It is appalling that firefighters are in some cases being killed in almost identical circumstances to those in which others have died. This is a terrible failing by those making key strategic decisions within the fire service and by central government.

“We need ministers in all four governments in the UK, as well as chief fire officers, fire authority members and other politicians, to take heed of what happened at Atherstone and work with firefighters to ensure such a tragedy is not repeated.”

Approximately 100 firefighters were mobilised to fight the fire in Atherstone-on-Stour, which was suspected as an arson attack.

Warwickshire County Council subsequently pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees during the incident, and was fined £30,000.

View the full report at http://bit.ly/FBUwarwickshirereport.

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