Incident directory

2008 - Little Holme Walk

23/06/2008

Country:

UK

  • Building Fires

Severity:

Near miss

Description

 Date of event

23rd June 2008.

Time of event

23:30:11 (INITIAL CALL).

Name of premises

1 Little Holme Walk.

Location

Little Holme Walk, Great Lever, Bolton.

Service area

Greater Manchester County Fire Service (GMFRS) now Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service (GMFRS).

Nature of incident

Fire.

Property type

Domestic dwelling of 2 storeys, end terraced and 4 bedrooms.

Premises use

Dwelling.

Construction type and materials

Brick construction under a composite tiled roof.

Occupancy

Occupiers.

Fire source and location of fire

Deliberate fire initially involving waste bins and then the canopy outside the front door and then involving other materials within.

Synopsis

Brief Synopsis

Greater Manchester County Fire Service (GMCFS) were called to a persons reported fire at Little Holme Walk on the 23rd June at 23:30. 3 pumping appliances with a total of 13 firefighters (Ffs) were mobilised to the incident. At approximately 23:36 the first 2 appliances were in attendance at the incident. The 3rd appliance booked in attendance at approximately 23:38. Initial crews were faced with a large number of local residents who were ‘frantically directing them towards the property involved in fire’ (Bowler et al, 2008). The entrance of the property involved was approximately 55 metres from the nearest pumping appliance, there being no nearer vehicular access available. Breathing apparatus (BA) wearers and a Watch Commander (WC) had difficulty dragging a high pressure hose reel towards the property which had become snagged on park vehicles. Members of the public assisted along with other firefighters. A decision was made to extend the hose reels, where some difficulty doing this was experienced by firefighters trying to extend the hosereel, due to tension being applied to it (Bowler et al, 2008).

A firefighter (Ff 3) entered the house at the rear on the first floor via a bedroom window accessed by the extension flat roof at approximately 23:37 without water to perform a snatch rescue. The window to the rear bedroom had already been broken by neighbours attempting to rescue the trapped family. A rear downstairs window had also been broken. The BA wearer (Ff 3) on the first floor found no one in the first bedroom and opened the door to the landing to search the next rear bedroom along, where the family was believed to be located. Also at approximately 23:37 a second BA team of 2 (including Ff 7) had entered the premises via the ground floor without water and made their way towards the stairs to assist with the rescues. Another firefighter (Ff 2) entered a few seconds later and followed this team upstairs. Outside firefighters were still having difficulty extending the hose reels due to the tension put on it from concerned residents trying to assist (Bowler et al, 2008).

At the bottom of the stairs a ‘small fire’ was located and the 2 BA wearers (including Ff 7) had decided to pass by it, which they did so ‘easily’ in order to rescue the casualties, followed a short time later by the other BA wearer, Ff 2. At approximately 23:38/39 the back door was opened by another firefighter. Attempts at this time to rescue a casualty were also being made via the rear, upstairs, left hand bedroom window that was broken at approximately the same time as the door was opened, by firefighters while attempting the rescue (Bowler et al, 2008).

At approximately 23:39 after searching another bedroom a BA wearer (Ff 2) exited it and went to the landing area where he saw ‘rushing’ flames at the top of the staircase. He was immediately aware of ‘a sensation of heat’ and ‘made a snap decision to exit via the route he had entered’ and ran down the stairs to exit via the front door he had used to enter the property. He tripped and/or fell down the stairs and landed at the bottom of the stairs. This firefighter self-rescued from the ground floor front door area by breaking through the front door, the reverse way it was supposed to open, to make his escape (Conversation with Ff 2, 2017).

As a result of the incident, 2 occupants, a 71 year old woman and a 6 year old child died and 3 firefighters were injured. One firefighter (Ff 2) suffered 55% burns including burns that required amputation of varying degrees to all fingers and thumbs, cuts/grazes, a broken elbow, hearing loss in both ears and limited neurological injuries. Another firefighter (Ff 7) suffered burns to his neck, lower arms and wrists and another (Ff 3) received burns to his lower arms and hands. (Bowler et al, 2008).

Photo 1

Courtesy of BRE, image believed to be from Manchester Evening News.

Photo 2

Courtesy of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS).

Photo 3

Courtesy of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS).

Photo 4

Courtesy of BRE and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS).

 Photo 5

Some of the burns suffered by Ff 2. Reproduced with the kind permission of Firefighter 2.

Photo 6

Meter cupboard and looking into hallway. Courtesy of BRE and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS).

Photo 7

Image of some of the fire testing carried out by BRE. Courtesy of BRE and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS).

Photo 8

Image of some of the fire modelling graphics carried out by BRE. Courtesy of BRE and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS).

Main findings, key lessons & areas for learning

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

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

Taken from Bowler, D., Chrimes, D. and Anderson, A. (circa 2008).  Incident report number 1 Little Holme Walk Great Lever Bolton 23rd June 2018.  Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and The Fire Brigades Union:

Conclusions

As will be appreciated, there are a unique number of circumstances that all combined to impact upon the development of the incident:

  • The travel distance from where appliances were brought to a halt to the property involved in fire was uncommonly excessive and resulted in problems with initially supplying a working water supply to the incident;
  • In the initial stages the fire did not cause concern for those attending; only as a result of the BRE research are we now able to understand the significant part that the external canopy played in the fire development and the speed with which development would have taken place;
  • The dynamic risk assessment process undertaken by firefighters at the scene would not include consideration being given to such rapid fire development;
  • The decision taken by rescuers to commit to the building under these circumstances may have been heavily influenced by external ‘pressure’ from members of the public/family at the scene and as a result a number of established command and control procedures were not put into place;
  • Conditions encountered within the property were of such a severity that

PPE worn by the injured firefighters, although compliant with the relevant

National Standards and certificated to the required EN number, failed to give total protection

Recommendations

1.  Consideration should be given to releasing the findings from the BRE research in order to further inform the dynamic risk assessment process that firefighters/incident commanders undertake.

2.  It may be appropriate to feed back results from the tests performed by Fire.

Technology Services to the British Standards Committee regarding the ‘limited protection’ area of firefighting wetlegs and the contribution this may have made to firefighter 2’ injuries.

3.  Consideration should be given to performing initial research into the feasibility of adopting a process to identify properties at local level where travel distances from the nearest roadway may be inordinately excessive. If a suitable process is identified then this should allow such information to be made available to incident commanders at the earliest opportunity.

4.  Consideration should be given to the development of a device to ensure that where tension is applied to a hose reel there is sufficient flexibility to be able to avoid tension on the coupling directly.

5.  It is acknowledged that gloves used were compliant with EN659 and FF 2 was exposed to temperatures far in excess of those reasonably expected to be encountered; however, bearing in mind the severity of the injuries to FF 2’ hands it may be prudent to conduct further research into the requirements and trade-off between protection and dexterity.

6.  Consideration should be given to expanding the current laundering arrangements for firefighting PPE to include firefighting gloves.

7.  A critical analysis of this incident should be undertaken by Training Section to determine whether there is a requirement to reiterate a number of safety critical training issues Service-wide, namely:

  • The importance of water provision at incidents of this type
  • BA command and control procedures at ‘persons reported’ type incidents, including rapid deployment procedures
  • The importance of BA crews remaining in close contact
  • The overall command and control process, especially with regard to initial actions at the scene

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

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

Please see above from joint GMFRS & FBU report.

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

From; Chitty, R. & Crowder, D. (2009). Fire at 1 Little Holm Walk. [pdf]. BRE Global, for Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.

Conclusions

Test Results

Ignition Tests

The bins could be ignited with a small ignition source, however it was found that an empty bin burnt slowly until it had collapsed when a pool fire developed.

Extinguishing the wheelie bin fires with water from a firefighting hose caused the fire to flare up before it was controlled.

Corner Test

A bin filled with cardboard boxes burned more rapidly and the contents acted as a wick for the melting plastic bin. The limited fire size from the bin meant that the corner arrangement had a very limited impact on the size of the fire.

Reconstruction

This was not intended to be an accurate reconstruction of the incident at 1 Little Holme Walk as there were (are) many uncertainties about the positions of the bins and freezer, the contents of the bins and the size of the ignition source.

The test showed how a fire could develop in these items.

1.  The wheelie bin burnt down (like a candle) heating the back of the freezer by radiation and melting/decomposing the insulation material.

2.  When the wheelie bin had burnt down to a height of approximately 0.5m a pool fire began to develop.

3.  The burning pool spread across the ground and provided a pilot ignition to the heated material at the back of the freezer.

4.  The freezer rapidly ignited and the space under the canopy was filled with flaming hot gases.

5.  The second wheelie bin was ignited when the top door of the freezer fell on to it.

Fire Modelling

The simulations of the fire at Little Home Walk are based on assumptions of the fire sizes and the time that various events occur and the results not be regarded as definitive values but as being indicative. Without an exact knowledge of the house contents and the sequence of events it is not possible to accurately reproduce the fire incident (this also applies to a physical reconstruction). The results do indicate how the flames and hot gases from the fire moved through the house and conditions that may have occurred.

  • The meter cupboard fire may have had a heat release rate of up to 1MW
  • Flames and hot gases from a fire in the meter cupboard would be drawn into the house (assuming both meter cupboard doors are open and there is an opening on the first floor)
  • Some of the gases from an external fire (bins and freezer under the canopy) could also be drawn into the house (the stairwell acts as a chimney)
  • If a fire occurs at the base of the stair (e.g. burning carpet on the winder tread) the jet of flames and hot gases from the internal meter cupboard door are tilted downwards toward the stairs increasing the temperature of the gases around any one using the stairs.

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

--end--

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:

Bowler, D., Chrimes, D. and Anderson, A. (circa 2008). Incident report number 1 Little Holme Walk Great Lever Bolton Monday 23rd June 2018. [pdf]. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and The Fire Brigades Union.

FBU Incident Report/s:

Please see the above reference.

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

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

Greater Manchester Police Incident Report/s:

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

North West Ambulance Service Incident Report:

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

Building Research Establishment (BRE) Reports/investigations/research:

Chitty, R. & Crowder, D. (2009). Fire at 1 Little Holme Walk. [pdf]. BRE Global, for Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.

Coroner’s report/s and/or regulation 28 notices:

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

Other information sources:

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

BBC News. (2008). Fatal fire at house ‘suspicious’. [online]. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/7472042.stm [accessed on 11th September 2016].

The Bolton News. (2013). Heroic firefighter gets £2.2 million compensation payout. [online]. Available at http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/10549230.Heroic_firefighter_gets___2_2_million_compensation_payout/ [Accessed 11th September 2016].

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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