Trapped teenagers killed in shed blaze

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The Independent Online

Three teenage boys were burned to death after becoming trapped in a garden shed which caught fire.

A 17-year-old and two 14-year-olds were sleeping in the shed which they had converted into a den when the blaze broke out around 11.30pm last night, West Midlands Fire Service said.

The tragedy was thought to have been caused by a candle setting light to bedding in the den in Chingford Road, Kingstanding, Birmingham, said a fire service spokesman.

Allan Rotchell, West Midlands Fire Service divisional officer, said fire crews arrived within three minutes of receiving an emergency call.

He said: "There were two sheds at the bottom of the garden, a typical garden shed and the other shed which the boys had converted into a den. They had carpeted the floor and they had quilts and blankets in there.

"They had slept in this shed before. I believe it was the 17-year-old's garden."

He said: "They were using candles to light the inside of the shed. We found 10 candles and some tea lights. It would appear that one of the candles set fire to the bedding and a rapid fire ensued."

Mr Rotchell said there had been a proper handle on the outside of the shed, which was only 8ft by 6ft in size, but only a makeshift handle inside.

He said: "There was a nail and a piece of string which you had to fiddle about with to open the door."

He added: "The fire spread very quickly and they could not get out.

"It is our belief that the boys were dead before we got there."

He said the shed was destroyed by the fierce blaze and fencing to the rear and side of it was severely damaged.

Fire crews were deeply shocked by what they had found, Mr Rotchell said.

"The last thing you expect to find is three kids. Three young boys dead in a shed at the bottom of the garden, three families devastated. It was terrible there last night, an absolute tragedy."

He appealed to parents to be vigilant, saying: "Our warning to people is that young people do sleep out in tents and summer houses, but please do not let them have tea lights and candles or there will be more tragedies.

"They need to have battery powered lights."

Mr Rotchell said post mortem examinations were expected to be carried out tomorrow.

Two other people were injured in the fire, but no details about them have yet been released. A West Midlands Ambulance service spokeswoman said: "As well as the deceased we took one patient with burns to the hand and one suffering from shock to hospital."

She said four ambulances and a special control vehicle went to the fire.

A spokesman for West Midlands police said: "We are not treating this fire as suspicious so there is really very little we can do. It appears it was simply a tragic accident in which a candle has caused the deaths of these boys."