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Investigation ordered after party stop fire crew tackling death blaze.

An investigation has been ordered after a Midland fire crew could not go out to a blaze in which a woman died because they were at a belated Christmas party.

Mr Wallace Radford, Chief Fire Officer for Warwickshire, demanded the inquiry after all 12 members of the part-time crew based at Shipston on Stour were unavailable after booking Saturday night off.

He said he wanted to know why no one locally was available to tackle the blaze in Oxway Close, Shipston. Instead, two appliances from Stratford-upon-Avon and one from Tysoe were sent to the blaze, arriving 15 minutes after receiving the first call at 8.20pm.

If the Shipston crew had been available, the crew would have attended within six minutes.

A woman, thought to be aged 48, was found dead by firemen after the blaze, but she has yet to be formally identified.

A spokesman for the service, who said the cause of the blaze was not being treated as suspicious, said the brigades control room had been informed that the Shipston crew had booked "off the run" but the control room was unaware why they had done so.

"Part-time fire crews do become unavailable at certain periods during the course of the week because, for instance, the driver may be unavailable," said the spokesman.

"We were not aware of this crews reasons but even if they had booked off the run and they were at a party we would still expect some of the crew to be available for an emergency such as this.

"We wouldnt class a Christmas function necessarily as a reason to take a fire appliance off the run.

"We dont really know what happened on Saturday night, which is why the Chief Officer has ordered the inquiry."

Warwickshire Fire Service Divisional Officer Ian Cowley said it was unlikely the womans life would have been saved if crews had arrived ten minutes earlier.

Mr Cowley, who examined the scene after the fire had been extinguished, said it had started at least 90 minutes before the alarm was raised.

"Based on over 20 years of experience of these sort of fires I dont think that by getting the fire engine from Shipston in attendance ten minutes before the other appliances it would have made any difference in our efforts to save her," he added.

None of the fire crew at the centre of the inquiry has been suspended from duty.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 12, 1998
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