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Shirley Towers inquest: Sprinklers recommended in high-rise buildings

  • 2-6-2013

High-rise buildings of more than 30m (98ft) should be retro-fitted with sprinklers, a coroner has recommended.

Keith Wiseman made the statement following the inquest into two Southampton firemen who died fighting a fire in a block of flats.

The blaze at Shirley Towers in 2010 took the lives of Jim Shears, of Poole, and Alan Bannon, of Southampton.

Mr Bannon's widow, Charlotte, said: "If these recommendations aren't taken on then they've died for no reason."

She called on all fire authorities, city councils and local authorities to take heed.

"What we wouldn't want is for the same thing to happen in a different area where it could have been prevented," she said.

'Complex designs'

In the coroner's report, released six months after the conclusion of the inquest, Mr Wiseman also said crews should be equipped with wire cutters to prevent them being trapped by fallen cables.

He added: "All fire and rescue services should consider the implementation of measures to reduce the risks associated with fallen cables.

"In particular consideration should be given to providing insulated wire cutters, or other means of severing cables, to all breathing apparatus teams.

"Social housing providers should be encouraged to consider the retro-fitting of sprinklers in all existing high-rise buildings in excess of 30m in height, particularly those identified by fire and rescue services as having complex designs that make fire-fighting more hazardous and/or difficult."

In addition he recommended that thermal imaging cameras be used in smoky conditions, and that "methodical search patterns are undertaken... area by area, room by room or floor by floor".

An inquest in July into the two deaths returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

The finding was delivered in conjunction with a narrative verdict which noted the pair died as a result of exposure to excessive heat.

During the inquest the court heard the fire on 6 April 2010, in a ninth-floor flat of the 15-storey block, started after a resident left a curtain resting on a lamp.

Mr Bannon, 38, and Mr Shears, 35, known by the call-sign Red Two, were one of a pair of two-man teams who were the first to arrive at the property.

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Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2013 BBC

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