MoD fire crews snub defended

A FIRE authority last night defended a decision not to call Ministry of Defence firefighters covering strike action to a pub blaze – instead sending more remote retained crews.

A FIRE authority last night defended a decision not to call Ministry of Defence firefighters covering strike action to a pub blaze – instead sending more remote retained crews.

Terrified bar staff have claimed the flames could have spread along the terraced street by the time retained fire crews reached a kitchen blaze that started amid the strike action.

It was only the quick-thinking actions of two men that saved the Black Boy pub in Bury St Edmunds, after crews were forced to make a 10-minute journey to the town.

Last night, union officials slammed the fire authority after it was claimed the blaze was not serious enough to warrant deploying on-call MoD crews, which were situated just two minutes down the road from the pub.


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Sammi Pearce , who was working behind the bar of the Black Boy when the fire started, told how pub owner Mark Eames, and off-duty fireman Steve Dyer, had no choice but to try and put out the fire themselves while they waited for help to arrive from the fire brigade.

Mr Dyer, who just happened to be in the pub at the time, was later taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

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"I dialled 999, but when the operator put me through it kept ringing out until I eventually got put back through to operator," said Ms Pearce.

"After a while the fire engines had still not arrived, so I called 999 again and asked how long they would be.

"Mark and Steve were doing everything they could, and by the time the engines arrived the flames had gone out and there was just a lot of smoke, but it was really thick and it was hard to breathe."

Retained crews from Wickhambrook and Elmswell were sent to the fire, which started just before 8.30pm on Wednesday.

Ms Pearce said: "The situation could have been a lot worse, and I really hate to think about how far the fire could have gone.

"The whole pub could have gone up in flames, and even the houses down the street could have caught fire."

Last night a Suffolk County Council spokeswoman defended the decision not to immobilise the on-call MoD engine - based at the army centre in Bury.

"The MoD is there for an emergency, such as if retained crews cannot get to an incident, or if they require back-up," she said.

"But the engine from Wickhambrook was already on the road so it was immobilised to the fire."

But Matt Hassey, chairman of the Bury branch of the FBU, said: "It is shocking that if it was not for the actions of the two men, then the whole pub could have gone up in flames.

"Ten minutes is a huge amount of time in terms of how long it takes for a fire to take hold, compared to just two minutes, which is how long it would have taken the MoD engine to get to the fire.

"If engines are coming from Wickhambrook and Elmswell to deal with a situation in Bury, then that is two more areas left without cover, and it is just not acceptable."

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