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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7098306.stmBlaze that changed firefighting
By Clifford Thompson
BBC News [photos on link]
The King's Cross fire claimed the lives of 31 people on 18 November 1987. The BBC's Clifford Thompson, then a firefighter, was on duty when the disaster struck.
I was based at Stratford fire station in east London. We had just started a 15-hour night shift, when we heard over the radio a major incident had been declared at King's Cross Tube station, and we knew a serious fire was in progress.
During the next few hours, the full horror of the fire unfolded, and news reached us a member of the brigade was missing.
This was the pre-mobile phone era, and we knew something tragic had happened when senior officers at the fire were told to contact the control room by landline.
The news soon reached us that the fire had claimed the life of Station Officer Colin Townsley, who was among the first firefighters to arrive at the incident.
The fire and the subsequent public inquiry by Sir Desmond Fennell led to a number of changes to both firefighting procedures and equipment.
At the time, the uniform worn by firefighters consisted of thin yellow over-trousers, a woollen tunic and cork helmet, which left much of a firefighter's neck and ears exposed, even when wearing breathing apparatus. The gloves would have been more at home in the garden.
Sir Desmond's report, published in November 1988, made more than 150 recommendations.
Soon after the fire, smoking was banned across the entire Tube network - it was a lit match that dropped on to the escalator that started the fire.
Gradually, the old wooden escalators were replaced and Sir Desmond recommended heat and smoke detectors be fitted to rooms housing escalator machinery.
Legislation was passed to cover Tube stations, enforcing minimum safe staffing levels, means of detecting and warning of fires, means of escape and standards of fire-resistant construction.
Improvements were made to personal protective equipment for firefighters - the combed-helmet was replaced by Kevlar headgear, and some fire and rescue services have opted for a design that encloses the ears.
Padded over-trousers and more substantial tunics, with collars were also introduced.
Sir Desmond was scathing in his criticism of the emergency services.
He visited King's Cross just after the fire, and said: "It was horrific, like going down into Hell". His report criticised the firefighters for not being aware of all the access points.
Nowadays, plans to the station are kept outside every Tube on the network to help fire crews in case of an emergency.
Following the 11 September 2001 terror attacks in the United States, the UK government launched a programme to provide specialist resources for tackling major incidents.
By 2004, £56m had been spent on new vehicles and equipment for fire services in England and Wales, and on training firefighters in urban search and rescue (USAR).
USAR teams and equipment from five fire services, including the London Fire Brigade, were used to recover the bodies of three firefighters killed in a warehouse fire in Warwickshire on 2 November 2007.
The fire service is also committed to a new UK-wide digital radio system, known as FireLink, which will enable crews to talk to other emergency services, and between surface and sub-surface locations, although it is not expected to be fully operational until at least 2008.
http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM ... FLAkgLmlXgKing's Cross radio faults remain
Emergency services still lack radios for use underground, 20 years after the King's Cross train station fire led to calls for their use.
There were calls for the new system after the fire, which killed 31 and injured about 60, and the report into the 7 July bombs highlighted the issue.
An emergency services radio network for underground use is not expected to be ready until the end of 2008.
A wreath was laid at King's Cross on Sunday on behalf of London Underground.
Staff placed it at the station's memorial plaque for the victims of the fire, to mark the 20th anniversary of the tragedy.
It is thought a smoker's dropped match, which fell on to an escalator and subsequently slid beneath the staircase, started the blaze at King's Cross St Pancras station on the evening of 18 November, 1987.
How firefighting changed
The blaze reached the ticket hall and took almost six hours to put the fire out.
Recalling the scene, rail passenger Peter Gidley said he was on the mainline station concourse and saw "thick black smoke belching from all the Underground exits".
"If hell exists, it was on display that night," he said.
In February 1988, QC Desmond Fennell headed a public inquiry into the fire.
His recommendations, which led to the tightening of safety on London's Underground network, included the introduction of radios that can be used below ground level.
Sir Desmond Fennell said "it seems extraordinary" that "the Americans can communicate with a man on the moon", yet people in the UK cannot establish a radio network to "get a system going 20 yards beneath the surface".
Earlier this year O2 Airwave was awarded a contract to link the Airwave radio network used by the police and emergency services to the Tube's new digital radio system, with the aim of the system being operational on all Underground lines in 2008.
In February, when the £115m contract was announced, Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said the radio network would "bring added flexibility to the way that emergency services operate".
British Transport Police, responsible for policing the Tube network, already has radios which operate underground.
Under current working arrangements, emergency workers accompanied by a transport police officer who has a radio which works below ground, can contact those below ground level.
The limitations caused by this arrangement were made clear in a London Assembly report highlighting the emergency services' response to the 7 July London bomb attacks.
The report stated that police, fire and ambulance staff all used different radio systems and rescuers at ground level could not talk to their colleagues underground.
Richard Barnes, chairman of the committee examining the emergency service response, said it was "unacceptable" that recommendations made after the King's Cross fire had still not been implemented.
However, John Healey, minister for local government, said "many lessons" had been learned since the disaster.
"The ongoing roll-out of common radio systems across the emergency services will improve inter-service radio communications.
"The installation of a digital radio system on the London Underground will also further improve the emergency services communications across the Underground network, and this should be complete by end 2008."
Progress on Tube fire safety regime
3 days ago
Progress has been made in agreeing a new fire safety regime on London Underground, it was announced, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the King's Cross tube blaze which claimed the lives of 31 people.
A joint statement by the Government and trade unions said that "fruitful discussions" have been taking place to find a balance between a fire safety order and regulations brought in in the wake of the 1987 fire.
Fire minister Parmjit Dhanda said: "The 20th anniversary of the tragic King's Cross fire provides a timely reminder of the crucial importance of fire safety."
Labour to back terrorism act
The Guardian (Manchester); Feb 26, 1996; ALAN TRAVIS HOME AFFAIRS EDITOR; p. 005
(Copyright Guardian Newspapers, Limited Feb 26, 1996)
LABOUR is to drop its 13-year opposition to the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the shadow home secretary, Jack Straw confirmed yesterday.
The historic shift,allied with a new recognition that some parts of Michael Howard's new hardline law sentencing package deals with genuine problems, is expected to trigger a turbulent debate within the Labour Party.
But shadow cabinet sources are confident that it will not provoke the kind of fierce row that would have been seen over the issue three or four years ago.
Mr Straw said yesterday, with the backing of Tony Blair, that he would be asking the shadow cabinet later this week to back the shift in policy on anti-terrorism legislation. The Commons is due to renew the act early next month.
Although it was a Labour government which first introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1974, the party has opposed its annual renewal since 1983.
Its criticism focused on the use of exclusion orders to create of system of "internal exile" and powers to detain people for four days without recourse to the courts.
Mr Straw said that in recent years the main difference with the Government was whether there should be a fundamental review of the workings of the act.
"That fundamental review was set up last year. Now we have a renewal of the bombing campaign by the IRA. We do not want any message to go out to them that they could glean any idea from our position that there could be any kind of excuse for the renewal of the bombing by them."
He told the ITV Dimbleby programme that the shadow cabinet had already agreed to back the renewal of the Emergency Powers Act but acknowledged there may yet be opposition. Jeremy Corbyn, the leftwing MP for Islington North, has already voiced criticism saying there was no evidence the act had stopped a single bomber.
The Conservatives have repeatedly used Labour's opposition to the Prevention of Terrorism Act to claim it is "soft on law and order".
Mr Straw yesterday moved to defuse similar charges over his attitude towards Mr Howard's tough sentencing package which has been under repeated attack from senior members of the judiciary.
There was a serious problem in dealing with repeat rapists who had to be released too early because the courts had to sentence them to a specified term.
He was attracted to a version of the Government's proposal for an automatic life sentence for repeat rapists under which the parole board rather than the Home Secretary set the release date.
C.Suisse in London stops work due to fire
Mon Feb 25, 2008 5:07pm GMT
LONDON (Reuters) - The London office of Swiss bank Credit Suisse Group suspended operations for about an hour on Monday as it dealt with a fire, a spokesman for the bank said.
About 5,000 Credit Suisse employees who work at its building in London's Canary Wharf district were evacuated at around 3 p.m. An hour later some were allowed back in, the spokesman said.
Fire marshals told the crowd outside, which included a few people in sportswear with towels around their shoulders for warmth, it would take another hour before everyone could return to the building.
The spokesman said the cause of the fire was not yet clear and added there was no damage to the building.
A security guard outside the Credit Suisse building said the fire had been extinguished and no one was hurt.
(Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova; Editing by David Holmes)
On 28 February 1975, a London Underground train overran the platform of Moorgate station and crashed into a concrete wall, killing 42 passengers and the driver. One of those who died was the father of the comedy writer Laurence Marks, but anyone coming to his documentary on the subject expecting an affectionate, or even self- pitying, tale of grieving and loss were pulled up short when Marks launched into the famous Philip Larkin poem about how your mother and father mess you up (or words to that effect).
Three different stories emerged from Me, My Dad and Moorgate, beginning with Marks's difficult relationship with his father, Bernie, a disciplinarian policeman (if that isn't tautological). Then there was his search for the causes of the Moorgate crash. Ironically, Marks was working at The Sunday Times at the time and was assigned to a yearlong (those were the days) investigation into what really happened. And finally there was the admission of how his father's death liberated him to be himself.
Marks's newspaper investigation led him to conclude that the train driver, Leslie Newson, had committed suicide, although the lack of a suicide note left the official inquiry no alternative but to deliver a verdict of misadventure. However, the sympathetic coroner broke all the rules and left Marks alone in his office to look over the full report, and it would seem that Newson had been making a number of practice sweeps at Moorgate station in the week or two before he finally went for it. But this terrible deduction wasn't what had been eating away at Marks for the past 31 years: it was not knowing how exactly his father met his end. In the most touching scene in a touching film, he was enlightened by the fireman who discovered Marks's father and dubbed him the "City Gent" for his upright bearing as he sat dead in his Tube seat. When the rescuers reached the front carriage, they discovered that everybody had died staring up at the hole they had been cutting in the ceiling, attracted by the light, and suffocating in that position. This haunting image somehow bought to my mind Antony Gormley's famous sculpture, with its massed ranks of figures staring at the viewer.
Comedy writer Laurence Marks testified to the power of fathers and football in Me, My Dad and Moorgate (Channel 4, Sunday), in which he confessed that the only time he ever really got on with his father was at Arsenal matches. The rest of the time they rowed and sulked, until Marks père was killed at the Moorgate tube disaster of 1975. Marks fils, then a journalist at the Sunday Times, conducted a year-long investigation into the causes of the crash and, after publication, felt so liberated by his father's death that he became an extremely successful TV writer. Looking back at his career - Shine On Harvey Moon, Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart, Get Back, The New Statesman - he recognised his father's influence in nearly everything he wrote, and concluded that "he is my dramatic muse".
When it was about Moorgate, a subject Marks knows better than anyone, this was a moving and informative documentary. Marks encountered the man who pulled his father's body from the mangled second carriage, and heard for the first time of his dignity in death. Marks has obviously inherited this quality, as he received the news quietly, without the tears that TV producers usually demand.
But when it strayed into an analysis of the writer's craft, it was on less solid ground. Marks seemed surprised that his own family life informed his work, and made some vague claims about "the unconscious level, where you draw for fiction". He seemed surprised that his own experience of living as a young married man with an interfering father was echoed in Get Back, a sitcom about a young married man with an interfering father. I'm all in favour of psychoanalysis in TV criticism, but this needed a bit of work.
Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 13:42 UK
Potters Bar crash inquiry on way
The fourth carriage ended up under the platform canopy
An inquiry into the Potters Bar rail disaster should take place "as soon as possible", according to the government.
Transport secretary Geoff Hoon announced the decision after a question from an MP in the Commons.
Mr Hoon said he recognised the "anxiety" of those affected by the tragedy in 2002 which killed seven people and injured more than 70.
MP for Hertsmere, James Clappison, said seven years was "too long" to wait for answers.
At Commons question time Mr Clappison acknowledged Mr Hoon had taken a "personal interest" in the case.
But, he asked him: "Do you agree that seven years is far too long to have to wait for an inquiry into these important issues?"
Mr Hoon replied: "I recognise the anxiety of those most directly affected by the terrible tragedy that took place and it is important that we resolve that as soon as possible by an appropriate form of inquiry."
In Living Memory:
In February 1975 a London Underground driver drove his train at full speed into a brick wall. Forty-three people died, in what remains the worst ever accident on the Underground. There was nothing wrong with the train, so why did he do it? Could it have been suicide? Or did he just get confused about where he was?
Wed 2 Dec 2009
BBC Radio 4
Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Firefighters injured in office fire
A firefighter is in hospital after being injured in a huge fire which broke out in an office block behind Paddington Station.
Up to 100 firefighters spent several hours battling flames near the major west London railway station.
Fire crews were still at the scene on Wednesday morning, extinguishing small pockets of fire and damping down hot embers at Telstar House.
Three firefighters were hurt while they were looking for a reported missing person in the building which is owned by London Underground.
Two have been released from hospital where they were treated for heat exhaustion, but one is still receiving treatment.
Documents, computers and support systems for the administration of the Public Private Partnership for the Tube have been destroyed
Assistant Divisional Officer Brian Mitchinson said: "It was an incredibly intense fire.
"Our three officers were hurt carrying out their duties trying to find this reported missing member of the public. We can only commend their bravery."
London Underground have said the missing member of staff has now been accounted for.
Some partial road closures are still in place around Paddington Station in Gloucester Terrace, Eastbourne Terrace and Cleveland Terrace.
The station itself remains open and train services are not affected but passengers are advised to use the Praed Street entrance.
Buses and taxis will be departing from alternative locations.
The fire started on the seventh floor of the 11-floor building at about 2045 BST on Tuesday, according to the London Fire Service.
It destroyed the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th floors before finally being brought under control at about 0240 BST on Wednesday morning.
At one point the blaze was tackled by 100 firefighters and 20 fire engines with high-reach ladders.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said nearby offices and homes had been evacuated.
Harry Coombes, who works on a contract as an IT consultant on the top floor of Telstar House, said: "Friday is the last day of my contract and all my stuff is up there which I need to get before I leave.
"There are other people in the same situation, who finish on Friday. Some of them are going on holiday on Friday and their passports and keys are on the 11th floor."
Demolition companies fined after a labourer is killed by a falling steel prop Demolition companies fined after a labourer is killed by a falling steel prop RSS feed
Two demolition companies have been fined a total of £115,000 after a labourer was killed by a falling steel prop. Essex based John F Hunt Demolition Ltd and Bayoak Demo Ltd of London both pleaded guilty to Health and Safety breaches concerning the death of 29-year-old Rafał Przestrzelski in 2005.
The Central Criminal Court, (Old Bailey) heard Mr Przestrzelski, 29, of Wood Green, London N22, was employed as a labourer by demolition sub-contactor Bayoak Demo Ltd. The project was managed by John F Hunt Demolition Ltd, acting as principal contractor.
On 25 July 2005, Rafał Przestrzelski was told to remove a number of steel (Acrow) props supporting a slab of concrete, during the demolition of Telstar House in Paddington, London. Originally there were 13 props, but as each one was removed the load increased on the remainder until the final one was carrying the entire load. When the props were removed, the concrete slab fell to the ground and an overloaded prop struck Mr Przestrzelski causing fatal internal injuries.
The subsequent joint Metropolitan Police and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found a full structural survey of the section of the building being worked on was not undertaken.
The investigation discovered a section of a partially demolished link-bridge structure collapsed when the props supporting it were removed by Mr Przestrzelski. They found a collapse was inevitable as the structure was not physically tied onto the building as was assumed by the management.
John F Hunt Demolition Ltd of Europa Park, London Road, Grays in Essex pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974, at the Central Criminal Court, (Old Bailey), on 27 January 2010. The company was fined £85,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 in costs.
Bayoak Demo Ltd, of Clare Gardens, Barking in London, also pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974, at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, on 1 February 2010. The company was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £8,000 in costs.
Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
After the sentencing HSE Inspector Giles Meredith said: “This was a lengthy joint investigation between the Metropolitan Police and HSE, which found Rafal Przestrzelski was the innocent victim of a basic error of judgement by others that cost him his life. There are lessons to be learned both about the importance of carrying out detailed surveys and also about making sure that the right people are consulted at the right time. The price of making an ill-informed decision about the structure was enormous."
Howard Cohen, reviewing lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: "This case clearly demonstrates that there will be consequences for companies if they do not uphold the necessary safety standards. The breaches in this case had the most serious and tragic of outcomes. The CPS takes health and safety offences very seriously and will consider prosecution of any company that fails to protect employees and others with whom they come into contact."
Directors cleared over worker's death
7:00am Tuesday 2nd February 2010
Two company directors have been cleared of all charges over the death of a demolition worker at a tower block near Paddington Station.
Polish labourer Rafal Prezestrzelski was crushed by falling masonry at the 12-storey Telstar House project on July 25, 2005.
Nicholas Ward, manager of contractor John F Hunt Demolition, based at London Road, Grays, and Oscar Menezes, director of Menezes Structural Consultants, were due to stand trial on health and safety charges this month.
But at the Old Bailey last Wednesday the prosecution offered no evidence against both men and Menezes Structural Consultants.
Last year gross negligence manslaughter charges were dismissed against Bayoak Demo Ltd, Barry Eaton, Nicholas Ward, Oscar Menezes and Menezes Structural Consultants Ltd following legal argument.
Only Bayoak Demo Ltd, which employed Mr Prezestrzelski, and director Barry Eaton now face trial.
Eaton, 45, of Claire Gardens, Barking, and Bayoak Demo, are both accused of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Ward, 41, of Islington, North London, and Menezes, 56, of Edgware, Middlesex, were discharged by judge Peter Rook.
John F Hunt Demolition pleaded guilty to failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act and will be sentenced at a later date.