Fareham firefighter’s bid to prevent a repeat of city fire tragedy

DESIGN Pete Broomfield with his invention
DESIGN Pete Broomfield with his invention

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WHEN Fareham firefighter Pete Broomfield lost two of his colleagues in a fire he decided to try and play his part to ensure it never happened again.

Mr Broomfield was at Shirley Towers in Southampton, on April 6, 2010 when firefighters James Shears and Alan Bannon lost their lives tackling a fire in a ninth-floor flat.

TRAGEDY The scene at Shirley Towers on April 6, 2010

TRAGEDY The scene at Shirley Towers on April 6, 2010

Now he has produced a life-saving invention to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

The inquest into the firefighters’ deaths earlier this year heard that one of the key factors in the tragedy was fallen cables, which hampered attempts to escape and the rescue operations.

So Mr Broomfield began to build a special adaptation to prevent cables tangling themselves around the air cylinders on firefighters’ backs.

The strap has been incorporated into all of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s breathing apparatus (BA) sets and is now being deployed around the country.

He said: ‘I went into Shirley Towers when most of the smoke had gone but I was still getting caught up in cables even then.

‘If you are trying to get away from heat and get tangled up in cables, you’ve pretty much had it. It was at that point I thought there had to be a way of stopping this happening.’

He discovered that no other brigades in the UK and around the world had a solution. So he began working on a prototype and tested them with his colleagues at Fareham station.

The strap creates a bridge between the air cylinder and the backplate of the BA set.

He added: ‘Cables have been responsible for the deaths of firefighters and something as simple as this is a matter of pence to a brigade.

‘If you are running away from heat to get through a door, it could be a matter of life or death – this strap will help you make it through that door.’