Blaze heroine Fleur's life is worth just pounds 950

Fury at 'disgraceful and insulting' offer to family of woman killed searching for fire victims
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The Independent Online

Labour Editor

The parents of heroine Fleur Lombard, the first female firefighter to be killed on active duty in Britain ,will get just pounds 950 compensation for her death, the Independent has learned.

Last night Jane Lombard, Fleur's mother, still mourning the death of her daughter last month, was angered by the payment. "This is all very depressing. pounds 950 is not much for a life," she said.

The 21-year-old female firefighter was killed when the roof of a Co-op store in Bristol collapsed as she went into the building to see if shoppers were trapped. Her family has set up a trust fund for the rehabilitation of firefighters in her name.

In a separate case, the common law wife of a part-time Gwent fireman, Kevin Lane, who died fighting a fire two days earlier, will receive no pension because although she was the mother of his 10-year-old son, she was not married to him. The wife a colleague, Stephen Griffin, who died in the same blaze last month will receive full pension rights. Both men had entered a blazing house at Blaina in the misapprehension that a child was inside.

The Fire Brigades Union has protested to the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, over the "absurd" pension rules and the "disgraceful and insulting" compensation offered to Mrs Lombard. In a letter to Mr Howard, Ken Cameron, leader of the union, registered his "extreme concern" about the deficiencies of the pension scheme which means only married spouses of firefighters killed on duty get payments.

Mr Cameron wrote: "We as a union have campaigned for many decades in order to have the right of choice about our pension scheme. Individuals who daily risk their lives in order to protect the public are entitled to ensure their partners or other relatives benefit from a scheme to which they have contributed over their service."

He reminded the minister that a working party had been set up on the issue by the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council and that a decision by ministers was "long overdue".

The compensation scheme, which is administered by the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire Brigades, recognises common law spouses. The partners of the two Gwent firemen will get lump sums of around pounds 85,000 each.

Mr Cameron told the Independent: "The Prime Minister in the Commons paid his tribute and offered his sympathy to the families. He should now ensure that their nearest and dearest have access to justice and practical help." A spokeswoman for the Home Office said Mr Cameron would receive a full reply to his letter and that the Government was conducting a review of fire service pensions.