Two firefighters die after blaze

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Two firefighters died today following a blaze in Bethnal Green, East London.

Two firefighters died today following a blaze in Bethnal Green, East London.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "Two male firefighters were injured fighting the blaze.

"Both were taken to the Royal London Hospital (in Whitechapel, east London) where they were pronounced dead shortly after arrival."

She said police were treating the fire as suspicious, "as is routine at this early stage".

Scotland Yard was helping fire investigation officers trying to establish the cause of the blaze, she added.

Police officers were sent to the scene at the building at 5.18am.

Two people were rescued and taken to the Royal London Hospital. Their condition was not thought to be life–threatening.

Two members of the public were rescued from the roof of the building during the blaze.

A fire brigade spokeswoman said: "Around 30 firefighters were called to a blaze at a shop and dwelling of three floors on Willmot Street, Bethnal Green Road, early this morning.

"Two members of the public were rescued from the roof of the building by firefighters.

"During the incident two firefighters were seriously injured and removed to hospital. Sadly due to the extent of their injuries both subsequently died.

"London Fire Commissioner Ken Knight has expressed his great sadness at the death of the firefighters and extends the brigade's sympathy to their families and colleagues."

Fire crews are still at the scene.

In the past 10 years, eight firefighters have died while on duty, according to official statistics.

The last fatality in London was in 1993.

The last time more than one firefighter died in an incident was in Gwent, South Wales, in 1996.

Two inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive were at the scene of today's blaze to start an investigation into the cause of the fire.

"Fire crews donned breathing apparatus (and entered the building) and one crew of two fire fighters got into difficulties," said Assistant Commissioner Kelly.

"Once colleagues realised they'd got into difficulties they mounted a search and rescue effort. Both were rescued from the fire and had suffered serious injuries.

"Tragically both fire fighters have died of their injuries."

Asked to describe how the officers got into problems, he replied: "They got into difficulties where the fire was very severe – the fire in the lower part of the building."

The senior fire officer was asked about the cause of the blaze and replied: "Until such time as we can interview everyone involved in the fire, and carry out an investigation, we won't speculate on the circumstances at the moment."

He added: "It's a very tragic day for us and it's one of the worst events to befall an organisation like us.

"A lot of my colleagues are very upset and distressed at the moment and we're doing everything possible to help them come through the next few days."

He added that the building had suffered some structural damage and that there were still pockets of fire at the premises.

A large area around the site of the fire had been cordoned off and many shops in Bethnal Green Road were closed.

A fire brigade spokesman said later that the two people rescued from the roof were not injured and were released after a routine check–up.