Incident directory

1957 - Oakwood Mental Hospital

29/11/1957

Country:

UK

  • Building Fires

Severity:

Description

Date of event

29th November 1957.

Time of event

Approximately 06:40 (INITIAL CALL)

Name of premises

Oakwood Mental Hospital.

Location

Maidstone, Kent.

Service area

Kent Fire Brigade (KFB) now Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS)

Nature of incident

Structural collapse.

Property type

Medical premises.

Premises use

Hospital.

Construction type and materials

Building of 2 storeys and a basement, L shaped, approximately 500 ft x 30 ft (152 m x 9 m) with an adjoined section approximately 45 ft x 40 ft (14 m x 12 m) of brick and stone construction with barrel vault roof covered with slates on timber batten with a stone tower approximately 90 ft (27 m) high located in the centre (Fordham, 1958) although Pearce & Masters, Circa. 1998 record the tower as 115 ft (35 m) and Klopper, 1984 as 120 ft (36.5 m).

Occupancy

350 mentally ill patients and members of staff

Fire source and location of fire

Accidental ignition involving a cloths iron left on within the tailor’s shop on the first floor (Pearce & Masters, Circa. 1998).

Synopsis

Brief Synopsis

Two firefighters (Ff) and an Assistant Divisional Officer (ADO) died as a result of a 90ft brick tower collapse on a hospital site, during damping down operations. The Ffs were buried in the rubble (House & Settle, 2016).

At approximately 06:40 on the 29th November 1957 Kent Fire Brigade (KFB) were called to a fire at Oakwood Hospital in Maidstone. The fire had been discovered by a member of staff making his rounds. The developing fire was ‘adjacent to wards containing 350 mentally ill patients’ (Pearce & Masters, Circa. 1998). KFB crews from Maidstone were on scene within 4 minutes initially with the normal attendance of 2 pumps and a Turntable Ladder (TL) with a Station Officer (StnO) and Assistant Divisional Officer (ADO) Pearce shortly afterwards. A ‘make pumps 4’ (MP 4) (Fordham, 1958) or MP 6 (Pearce & Masters, Circa. 1998) message was sent at approximately 06:48 and further officers including the Deputy Chief Fire Officer (DCFO) also attended (Fordham, 1958).

The fire was initially attacked with a jet from a hydrant used by staff and then 3 additional jets once KFB arrived. A stop message was sent at approximately 07:31. According to Fordham, 1957 the part of the building affected was approximately 45 ft x 40 ft (14 m x 12 m) and suffered severe damage by fire to the first floor, roof and one room on the ground floor. This part of the building abutted onto and adjoined the male wards 500 ft x 30 ft (152 m x 9 m) section.

At approximately 10:01 (Pearce & Masters, Circa. 1998 and Fordham, 1958), (Klopper, 1984 states 09:55), while cleaning up operations were in progress and half the personnel where having a cup of tea, without any warning the tower collapsed completely falling onto the workshops block, destroying the building around it. Numerous Ffs and hospital staff were trapped at all levels of the building from the basement to the first floor (Pearce & Masters, Circa. 1998).

Search and rescue operations commenced immediately. At the time, 24 KFB personnel had been on the scene, although it was initially unclear how many KFB personnel and hospital staff were missing and trapped under the rubble (Klopper, 1984). 3 Ffs were killed and recovered including ADO Pearce, who was found by his Retained Duty System (RDS) StnO brother, RDS Ff Farrow and RDS Ff Hawkes who also died. 3 other people died in the collapse including a patient and 2 members of hospital staff, including the hospital’s Chief Fireman. 7 hospital staff were badly injured (Klopper, 1984).

The last body was recovered 2 days later at approximately 14:30. 6 other Ffs and 2 senior officers were seriously injured and detained in hospital (Klopper, 1984, Pearce & Masters, Circa. 1998 and Fordham, 1958).

 Pic 01and02

Image from Pearce & Masters, Circa. 1998 – Fifty Vigilant Years. A History of Kent Fire Brigade. Original image believed to be donated by Kent Firefighting Museum.

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Main findings, key lessons & areas for learning

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Fire & Rescue Service summary of main findings, conclusions, key lessons & recommendations

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

FBU summary of main findings, conclusions, key lessons & recommendations

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Other report summary of main findings, conclusions, key lessons &recommendations

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

IFE Commentary & lessons if applicable

None produced at this time.

Known available source documents

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

FRS Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

FBU Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Incident Report/s and/or improvement notices

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Kent Police Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

South East Coast Ambulance Service Incident Report

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Building Research Establishment (BRE) Reports/investigations/research

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Coroner’s report/s and/or Rule 43 and/or Regulation 28 Notices etc

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Dear Chief Officer Letters (DCOL), FRS Circulars, FRS Notices and/or Bulletins etc

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Notifications from National Operational Learning User Group (NOLUG) and/or Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP)

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Other information sources

House, A. & Settle, P. et al. (2016). The firefighter memorial trust book of remembrance. [online]. Available at. http://www.theonlinebookcompany.com/OnlineBooks/FirefighterMemorialTrust/Content/Filler  [Accessed 20th September 2017]. The Firefighters Memorial Trust.

Note. With the above source reference, it is not currently possible to link directly to the relevant page of the memorial book.

Pearce, P. H. & Masters, P. (Circa. 1998). Fifty vigilant years. A history of the Kent fire brigade 1948 – 1998. Page 168. Ashford. Aquarius

Fordham, J. H. (1958). Kent ADO and two retained men killed hospital tower collapse costs firemen’s lives. Fire. (January). Page 447.

 Pic 03

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Service learning material

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Videos available

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

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