November 02, 2005

LABOR DISPUTES

UPDATED MARCH 2008

Photo: BBC web site
On the picket line

Firefighters across the U.K. staged a series of strikes in 2002 and 2003.

The 52,000 members of the Fire Brigades Union - which was founded in 1918 as the Fireman Trade Union - argued their pay formula fell behind other industries.

The FBU lobbied for an increase in the basic salary to £30,000 from £21,531, according to the BBC web site. An accord was reached in 2004.

The union also objected to the findings of the so-called ``Bain Report'' - a review of the U.K. Fire Service that recommended wide-ranging changes, known as ``modernization.''

The report, by Professor George Bain, president of Queen's University in Belfast, placed an emphasis on fire prevention and community fire safety.

Military firefighters provided limited coverage during the walkouts using "Green Goddess" reserve fire engines built during the Cold War as well as other vehicles.

Earlier Actions

The union also struck in 1977, and during that dispute firefighters abandoned their pickets to fight a blaze at London's St. Andrew's Hospital, according to the BBC. One fireman said: "For God's sake, it was a hospital. What else could we do but come and help?"

In November 1951, firefighters answered only emergency calls ``in a dispute that called for parity with police pay,'' according to the LFB's web site.

In September 1918, firefighters threatened to strike after the settlement of a police strike, the New York Times reported. In an ultimatum to the Ministry of Labor, the union's secretary said the firefighters, ``in their present frame of mind, will equire assurance to prevent them from taking drastic action.''

In March 1915, a firefighters strike was averted after the fire committee of the London Common Council ``decided to recommend a substantial increase in their wages,'' the New York newspaper also reported.

LINE OF DUTY

UPDATED MARCH 2008

POSTMAN'S PARK MEMORIAL

Two London firemen are among those honored on tablets at Postman's Park, which was built by Victorian painter and philanthropist G. F. Watts to commemorate ``heroic men and women'' who gave their lives attempting to save others.

The tablets for the firemen read:

``Joseph Andrew Ford aged 30, Metropolitan Fire Brigade. Saved six persons from a fire in Gray's Inn Road but in his last heroic act he was scorched to death. Oct 7 1871.''

``George Lee, fireman. At a fire in Clerkenwell carried an unconscious girl to the escape falling six times and died of his injuries. July 26 1876.''

Postman's Park, so named because it was a lunchtime garden for workers from the old General Post Office, is located in the City of London, near St Bartholomew's Hospital, according to the web site Urban 75.

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Photo: Euston Fire Station web site

KINGS CROSS - 1987

Disaster visited the Kings Cross underground station on Nov. 18, 1987. A flash fire engulfed an old wooden escalator serving the Picadilly Line, killing more than 30 people, including a member of the London Fire Brigade - Station Officer Colin Townsley from the Soho Fire Station.

CLICK ON PHOTO OF FUNERAL FOR DETAILS

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WORLD WAR II

The German raids of World War II claimed the lives of 327 firefighters serving in the London region - members of both the regular and auxilary fire services. Another 3,000 London firefighters suffered serious injuries. (More than 1,000 firefighters died across the United Kingdom during the war, including London's losses.)

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Photo: BBC
BETHNAL GREEN - 2004

Whitechapel station firefighters Bill Faust and Adam Meere became the first London firefighters to die in the line of duty in more than a decade.

Faust, 36, and Meere, 27, were seriously injured at an eight-pump fire on Bethnal Green Road in East London on July 20, 2004. They died at Royal London Hospital. Meere had joined the bridage a few months earlier.

The fire in the three-story structure was reported at 4 a.m. ``The firefighters got into difficulty in the lower part of the building where the fire was most severe,'' the BBC reported. The men, both wearing breathing apparatus, were pulled from the flames by their colleagues. But it was too late.

The last firefighter death occurred in 1993 in Willesden in north London.

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VAUXHALL - 1918

A fire on Jan. 30, 1918 claimed the lives of seven London firefighters.

The following official report - from the Superintendent of "E" District - is posted on the web site of the Vauxhall Society, courtest of the London Fire Brigade Museum.

Loss of Life at a Fire Collapse of Building

I submit that at 3-44 a.m of this date a call was received by stranger to a private house alight at Albert Embankment, S.E., to which Motor Escape, Motor Pump and 10 men from No.94. Station Vauxhall and Motor Pump and 6 men from No.87. station Kennington responded.

At 3-55 a.m., a "home call" message was received, viz:- It is a building of three floors about 40 x 40 ft. used as Pepper Mills alight, one hydrant in use. No.3. Westminster Motor Pump and 6 men were ordered and I attended with No.80. Motor Car and 2 men.

On my arrival I found the upper floors of abuilding of three floors about 45 x 30 ft. (used as cattle food manufacturers) well alight, and part of roof and upper floor had fallen in. The fire was practically extinquished by the use of two hydrants and 1 Motor Pump and the stop sent back accordingly.

At 5-34 a.m., owing to a considerable amount of turning over to be done, a message was dispatched to the effect that appliances would be detained for a time and a few minutes later another message asking for a Sub-officer and four men to be sent on with a view to the appliances and myself returning home.

At about 5-45 a.m. I was on the ground floor and in consequence of hearing a cracking noise, cleared everyone out of the building. Owing to the ground mist and smoke, the front of the building was hardly discernible, a hydrant was still being used up the Escape, I went to the front of the building with the men with a view of making up and removing the Escape, when suddenly I heard Sub-officer Cornford call out "Look out Sir" and saw the building collapsing. I called out "drop everything and run", but was knocked down by the falling debris and part of the Escape, being subsequently extricated by our men from amongst the debris. On making enquiry, I found that a message to the effect that the building had collapsed and that several of our men were buried and ambulances were requires had been sent back. I gave instructions for the debris to be searched for the bodies of our men, then saw the Divisional Officer South who, on hearing of the nature of my injuries ordered me home. I have since been examined by the District Medical Officer, and placed on the sick list, nature of illness "Injury to Legs".

I regret to have to report the undermentioned casualties:

-KILLED:-
No.100. Sub-officer W.E.Cornford - No.80 Clapham.
No.616. Fireman K.J.Fairbrother - No.87 Kennington.
No.718. " W.E.Nash - No.87 Kennington.
No.944. " J.W.C.Johnson - No.94 Vauxhall.
No.1087. " A.A.Page - No.94 Vauxhall.
No.1174.Temp.Fireman J.E.Fay - No.87 Kennington

SEVERELY INJURED:-
No.151. Sub-Officer W.W.Hall - No.94 Vauxhall.
since dead.

INJURED:-
Superintedent J.Barrows. - "E" District.
Station-Officer E.Partner - No.87. Kennington.

(Signed) ........J.BARROWS

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DUDGEONS WHARF - 1969

www.fireservice.co.uk - The following article is rewritten from a report into this incident published in “FIRE” magazine dated November 1970. The 17th July 1969 saw a tragic and sudden explosion take the lives of 5 of London’s firemen; here is the story of what happened.

Dudgeons Wharf on the Isle of Dogs consisted of a “tank farm” of more than 100 tanks of various capacities up to 200,000 gallons and used for storing oils and spirits on a plot which measured 350 ft. x 300 ft. The demolition contractors had received advice on safety before starting the demolition of these tanks to enable regeneration of the site.

Tank 97 on this site was of a welded construction measuring 27 ft in diameter and 35 ft high. It held 125,000 gallons. Two manhole covers, one on the roof and one at ground level, were held shut with steel plates secured by nuts and bolts. This tank had been empty for two years but had previously held Myrcene (a member of the turpentine family). This chemical would leave a thick, gummy deposit on the inside of the tank. This deposit could be easily ignited or when heated would give off a flammable vapour which, if mixed with air, is potentially explosive.

At 11.21 am on Friday 17th July a call was made to a fire on the North bank of the River Thames at Millwall, covered by London’s “F Division”.

Less than 2 weeks before this incident a fire had occurred on the same site where 40 firemen and 8 pumps using 6 jets and 2 foam making branches had tackled a fire involving waste oil in a derelict oil tank. The brigade had also attended numerous other small fires on the site, caused by sparks from hot cutting gear used by workmen cutting the tanks.

On receipt of the call 2 appliances consisting of a pump escape and pump were ordered from Millwall Fire Station and one pump from Brunswick Road. The foam tender from East Ham was also ordered followed later by the fireboat “Massey Shaw” from Greenwich.

The fire brigade arrived very quickly with Station Officer Innard in command. He enquired about the fire situation but was given misleading information. He not unreasonably thought that the fire was probably out but decided to make sure by putting a spray branch into the top of the manhole which had been removed from the top of Tank 97. Sub Officer Gamble with Firemen Appleby, Breen, Carvosso and Smee joined him on top of the tank alongside Mr Adams, one of the workmen. It is thought that using the spray branch caused air to be drawn in and mixed with the flammable vapours given off by the burning or hot Myrcene deposits greatly increasing the risk of an explosion.

Station Officer Innard along with Station Officer Snelling decided to look into the tank from the bottom manhole to see if any fire remained and, if so, direct the positioning of the spray branch. This involved opening the bottom manhole cover. Station Officer Snelling sent a fireman to fetch a spanner to remove the bottom manhole cover.

The members of the brigade could not undo the nuts so an unidentified person suggested the nuts should be burned off. Station Officer Innard descended from the top of the tank to see what was going on. An employee working on the demolition of the tank farm applied a cutting torch to one of the nuts. As soon as the cutting flame was applied to the first nut, the vapours inside the tank ignited almost instantaneously blowing off the roof of the tank together with the 5 firemen and workman. This was probably due to flames or sparks from the cutting torch entering the tank and igniting the explosive mixture within.

D.O. Abbitt had been in the area and, upon hearing of the incident at the riverside wharf, he attended. He arrived at 11.50, just before the explosion occurred at 11.52. Three further pumps from Bethnal Green and Bow were order on at 11.54 following this explosion. Their job was to recover the bodies of the firemen killed.

Those firemen were:

Temporary Sub Officer Michael Gamble of F23 Millwall, aged 28, married, 10 years in the brigade.
Fireman John Victor Appleby of F22 Brunswick Road, aged 23, married, 3 children, almost 5 years service.
Fireman Terrance Breen of F22 Brunswick Road, aged 37, married with 3 children, 12 years service.
Fireman Paul Carvosso of C25 Cannon Street, aged 23, married, 1 child, 4 years service.
Fireman Alfred Charles Smee of F23 Millwall, aged 47, 1 son, 24 years service.
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WORSLEY HOTEL - 1974

On Dec. 13, 1974, fire swept the Worsley Hotel in the Maida Vale section of London, killing 7 people -- including a probationary firefighter, Hamish ``Harry'' Petit. Three other firefighters were injured in a collapse that killed Petit. The story of the Worsley Hotel fire was recorded by journalist Gordon Honeycombe in the book ``Red Watch'' and by former London officer Neil Wallington in the book "Fireman! A personal account."

According to Wikipedia: `` Kitchen porter, Edward Mansfield, aged 41, was charged at the Old Bailey on 10 July 1975, with three cases of arson (one at the Worsley Hotel on 13 December and two at the Piccadilly Hotel on 19 and 29 December) and the murders of seven people, including a fireman, at the Worsley Hotel. He pleaded not guilty. On 23 July the jury failed to reach the required majority verdict and were discharged. The re-trial of Mansfield at the Old Bailey on the same charges began on 12 November 1975. John Mathew was again the prosecuting counsel. It ended on 1 December. Mansfield was found guilty of the manslaughter of seven people, including Fireman Pettit, and of three charges of arson. He was gaoled for life.''

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - 1960

According to The London Daily Telegraph: ``19 firefighters were killed in Britain’s worst disaster for the fire service when a Glasgow whisky and tobacco warehouse went up in flames March 28, 1960. Fourteen men from the Glasgow Fire Service and five men from the city's Salvage Corps were killed when a massive explosion blew out the entire side of the building at 1 Cheapside Street, sending hundreds of tons of masonry on to the crews below. Three fire appliances were buried under the rubble and the fire took a week to extinguish.''