Fire Tragedy as Incorrectly Fixed Cables Cost Lives
Report of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service investigation into the deaths of Firefighters Alan Bannon & James Shears in Flat 72, Shirley Towers, Church Street, Southampton, SO15 5PE, on Tuesday 6 April 2010.
The following is an extract from the Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service Investigation published in 2013.
2.8 Displaced Cables from Surface Mounted Plastic Trunking Finding
During fire-fighting operations it was noted that surface mounted plastic cable trunking (installed in Shirley Towers post original build) had softened or melted as a result of the fire in Flat 72. This trunking carried a variety of cables and was present in every room of the flat and also in the common areas of the building.
Where the trunking had softened or melted it allowed the cables laid within it to fall free. Where the trunking had crossed doorways the displaced cables had fallen across the doorway often forming an impenetrable barrier. The cables are unlikely to have been very visible in the smoky conditions prevailing during fire-fighting operations. Post incident trials have shown that cables are visible with the use of a TIC.
8.7 – Conclusion 5:
Fire resistant cable supports: Surface mounted electrical cabling was encased in plastic trunking which failed when exposed to heat so releasing the cables. These cables then became a hazard to firefighters. Ffs Bannon and Shears were both entangled in cables when located. The Harrow Court Fire Rule 43 letter only made recommendations regarding fire resistant cable supports for fire alarm cabling.
Nick Copeman, Operations Director for BBC Fire Protection notes, “there is a saying, don’t spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar; clearly here, for the sake of a few metal cable ties, two firefighters’ lives could have been saved. It does not matter how insignificant the amount of cable being installed, if it has the potential to fall down in a fire condition we are bound to install it so that it does not.”