Blaze kills man during strike by firefighters

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The Independent Online
Army Green Goddess fire engines reached the scene of a fatal blaze in Liverpool yesterday three minutes later than striking firefighters would have been expected to arrive.

But the chief fire officer for Merseyside, Andrew Best, said the question of whether the man who died in the burning bedsit could have been saved by his firefighters was very speculative.

Police were alerted to the fire in a large converted three-storey semi- detached house in Grove Park, Toxteth, Liverpool, at 4.38am. The county's firefighters had walked out at midnight on the third of a series of nine- hour strikes in a dispute over losing three days of leave to cover for the loss of 20 jobs caused by budget cuts. It was the first time they had taken strike action at night.

A fleet of 24 Green Goddesses and 10 RAF fire rescue units were on stand- by at 10 locations around Merseyside to cope with emergencies.

Mr Best said two Green Goddesses and one rescue unit arrived at the house from a Territorial Army depot in Allerton eight minutes after the alarm was raised.

He said that if the firefighters at the nearest fire station in Hyde Park Street, Toxteth, had been on hand, they would have expected to have had one pump at the scene in five minutes and a second in eight minutes.

Up to six people were evacuated from the flats and received treatment for shock and smoke inhalation. But the body of a man, understood to be a newly graduated fine arts student from Liverpool's John Moores University, was discovered in a top-floor flat. He has not been formally identified but is believed to be Mark Shuttleworth, 25, of Burnley.

Mr Best said it had been a "very serious fire" which was tackled "ably and valiantly". His own crews would have faced the same difficulties that the Army and the RAF's professional firefighters had faced.

Lt-Col Andy Whistler, of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, said his men had "responded very well, within the limitations of their training and equipment".

He added: "We are very saddened that there was a fatality. The Fusiliers are now even more resolved to provide the best emergency fire cover they can when requested."

The Fire Brigades Union said it was determined to continue its action, starting with another midnight to 9am strike tomorrow. "Our resolve remains the same because the action is designed to stop the very thing that has happened being a regular event because the fire authority is cutting the service to the bone," said FBU executive member Mike Lawson.

"If the proposals go through to further reduce the number of firefighters this type of tragedy will happen regardless of whether there are red or green fire engines on the road."

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