Firefighters killed in 14th-floor blaze

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Two heroic firefighters were killed today when they returned to the heart of a fire on the 14th floor of a block of flats to try to rescue a trapped resident.

Two heroic firefighters were killed today when they returned to the heart of a fire on the 14th floor of a block of flats to try to rescue a trapped resident.

One man had already been saved from the blaze after fire crews were called to the 17–storey block in Silam Road, near Stevenage town centre, after 3am.

The two firefighters, both from the Hertfordshire town's fire station, went up to the 14th floor to try to rescue another victim and lost their lives in the attempt.

Deputy chief fire officer Roy Wilsher paid tribute to their courage.

He told a press conference at the town hall: "I don't want to be too dramatic but it's the ultimate sacrifice.

"They were attempting to save someone else from a tragic situation and they did their utmost to achieve that. Our thoughts are with the family and friends."

A third person died in the blaze and another was in a critical condition in hospital.

Mr Wilsher said he believed it was the first time in 30 years a firefighter had been lost in a fire in the county and colleagues were "devastated" by the tragedy.

He added: "I think firefighters across the country and firefighters in Hertfordshire are very professional, dedicated to what they do and they were doing their job to make Hertfordshire a safer place."

The press conference heard that after the fire at Harrow Court had been extinguished a body, which has not yet been identified, was found inside the flat.

The first man rescued is currently in the Lister Hospital in a "very serious" condition suffering from smoke inhalation.

Seven other people were treated for minor injuries.

Some 72 people were evacuated by police from the block and were housed overnight in the town's Bowes Lion House.

The fire caused severe damage to the flat where the blaze was believed to have started, together with the rest of the floor and the flat above.

Police Superintendent Adrian Walter, deputy area commander, said: "The cause of the fire and reason for the fatalities is still unknown and is actively being investigated.

"This investigation has been carried out jointly by the Fire Service, police, Health and Safety Executive, HM coroner and Stevenage Borough Council.

"At present our thoughts are with the families bereaved in this tragic incident."

Mr Walter said police and council officials were currently making their way through the building, checking every floor to see if any were occupied.

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