Incident directory

1971 - Texas Mill

22/10/1971

Country:

UK

  • Building Fires

Severity:

Fatal

Description

Date of event

22nd October 1971             

Time of event

Approximately 15:47; (INITIAL CALL)

Name of premises

Texas Mill.

Location

Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester.

Service area

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.

Nature of incident

Fire

Property type

Factory of approximately 60 m x 90 m with up to 5 storeys in varying sections and a semi-basement. A water tower was also present. Built in Circa. 1906.

Premises use

Industrial cotton and then artificial fibre spinning mill.

Construction type and materials

Steel and cast iron frame and supports with engineering brick walls, wooden floors and pitched roofs.

Occupancy

Staff.

Fire source and location of fire

Unknown at this time.

Synopsis

Brief Synopsis

Greater Manchester County Fire Service were called to a fire at Texas Mill, Ashton-under-Lyne on the 22nd October 1971. The mill fire burnt for several days and approximately 40 pumps and other special appliances attended in total. A firefighter (Ff) was killed during the incident by structural collapse of part of the wall of the building when it collapsed onto him and others. A Sub Officer (SubO) was also badly hurt at the same time. Another Ff required rescuing himself after being overcome while rescuing another person.

The initial call was received by Lancashire Fire Brigade control at approximately 15:47 with the caller indicating the fire involved ‘the cellar’. A pre-determined attendance (PDA) of a Water Tender Escape (WrE) 2 x Water Tenders (WrT) and a Turntable Ladder (TL) was sent. A Sub Officer (SubO) in charge of the first appliance to arrive sent an assistance message at approximately 15:53, make pumps 5, (MP) for breathing apparatus (BA). An off duty Ff witnessed, initially, smoke pouring from the semi-basement and roof, then a rapid fire spread to the roof area (Darby, 1971).

At approximately 15:57 the SubO sent a MP 10 message with a Station Officer (StnO) arriving shortly afterwards who took over and sent MP 20 for BA at around 15:58. At about this time another SubO and his crew were ‘penetrating in appalling conditions through a loading bay at ground floor near the main entrance’. A ladder had been pitched ‘above the loading bay’ to a ‘loop hole’ ‘and 3 Ff’s not wearing BA were attempting to rescue an employee who had gone back into the building to recover his jacket’. ‘All were in obvious difficulty due to the smoke density’. A StnO ran up the ladder, placed the employee on his shoulders and carried him down, he also ordered the 3 Ff’s down from the ‘loop hole’without delay’ (Darby, 1971).

Darby, 1971 also reported that the StnO after checking that the 3 Ff’s were clear of the ‘loop hole’, observed a ‘twitching’ leg in yellow leggings. The StnO ran up the ladder in an attempt to rescue the Ff but could not carry him because the Ff was a ‘very heavy person and at this time was vomiting and jerking around in an uncontrollable manner’. The StnO wedged him behind a door and signalled for the TL operator to commence a rescue. By the time the TL was ready, the StnO had donned BA, went back up and placed a rescue sling around the Ff where his was rescued by lowering line and TL (Darby, 1971).

A Divisional Officer (DO) had by now taken charge and at approximately 16:44 sent a MP 30 message and at 16:52 requested an additional TL and a Hydraulic Platform (HP). ‘The dense smoke was severely punishing the crews who were penetrating the building at various levels’ (Darby, 1971).

The Deputy Chief Fire Officer (DCFO) arrived and took command. Information was received that ‘the seat of the fire had been located by penetrating the semi-basement on the West side of the mill’. Crews had been using monitors at this location and due to ‘light rumblings’ that were heard the monitors were left in position and crews were withdrawn from the area. ‘Within minutes of the last man leaving, the monitor jets were buried under the debris created by a five-floor collapse’ (Darby, 1971).

A SubO and Ff Norman Nolan were ordered with a branch to the door at the fourth floor on the West side. Access was via an external escape from the flat roof of a 2-storey projection. Due to the density of the smoke, they had been told to secure the branch and not to enter the building. The Chief Fire Officer (CFO) arrived and took charge of the incident. Additional safety officer/s were deployed to the West side. A DO and an Assistant Divisional Officer (ADO) had just descended the escape to the flat roof area with the intention of exploring ‘the possibility of making further entry in the building’. Without warning at approximately 18:05 an approximately 21 m x 24 m section of the upper floors and wall structurally collapsed ‘carrying away the external escape’. The SubO was partially buried, entrapped by rubble and had to but cut free from the ‘broken and twisted escape’ while masonry was still falling. The SubO was carried away by a StnO and taken to an Ambulance and then to hospital (Darby, 1971).

Ff Nolan could not be found. All personnel except those engaged with the rescue were withdrawn and despite the ‘severe hazard from further falls of the structure efforts were made to locate the missing man’. Because of the ‘extreme hazard’ the CFO took the decision to ‘cease these attempts and the emphasis was then on a very large scale attack, using water from 24 ground monitors’. Shortly afterwards further structural collapse was reported (Darby, 1971).

Ff Nolans body was located at approximately 05:56 on the 3rd day of the incident and was recovered later.

Photo 1

Texas Mill. Image supplied courtesy of Simon Ryan, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service. Image originally believed to be from The Tameside Reporter.

Photo 2

Texas Mill. From Fireflash-delta64, unknown date. Image originally believed to be from The Tameside Reporter.

Photo 3

Image supplied courtesy of Simon Ryan, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service. Image originally believed to be from The Tameside Reporter.

 Photo 3b

A member of staff had gone back into the building to collect a coat and required rescuing. A firefighter who was carrying out the rescue was also overcome during this rescue and had to be rescued himself. Photograph from Fireflash-delta64, Unknown date, image originally believed to be from The Tameside Reporter.

Photo 4

A firefighter who was overcome during the rescue of an employee had to be rescued himself. From Fireflash-delta64, unknown date. Image originally believed to be from The Tameside Reporter.

Photo 5

Image supplied courtesy of Simon Ryan, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service. Texas Mill. Image originally believed to be from Manchester Evening News.

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.

Lancashire Constabulary Incident Report/s

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

Lancashire Ambulance Service now North West 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 regulation 28 notices

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.

Wikipedia. (unknown date). Texas Mill, Ashton-under-lyne [online]. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_Mill,_Ashton-under-Lyne [Accessed 16th September 2016].

Fireflash-delta64. (unknown date). Texas Mill, Ashton-under-lyne 22 October 1971. [online]. Available at http://www.fireflash-delta64.co.uk/texasmill.html [Accessed 16th September 2016].

Darby, P. (1971). Fireman killed as wall falls a Lancashire mill. Fire, (volume 64), Pages 358 to 359.

Photo 6

Photo 7

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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