Firefighters forced to wait as blaze spread through elderly couple's home in Harrogate

Andrew Warren next to his parent's fire damaged home
Andrew Warren next to his parent's fire damaged home

Firefighters were forced to wait for backup due to crewing numbers as an elderly couple’s home burned in Killinghall.

The blaze on Crag Lane is believed to have started at the home of Andrew Warren’ parents due to an electrical fault. A Tactical Response Vehicle (TRV) with a crew of three was sent from Harrogate after a member of the public reported it as a ‘fire in the open in the area of a new housing estate.’

Additional calls to North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service directed the crew to the house, but on arrival they found the fire was too large for them to enter without further support. This meant a 10 to 15 minute wait.

Not knowing his parents had already escaped, Mr Warren entered the building ahead of the firefighters.

Mr Warren said: “I just couldn’t believe it, they were saying it was the wrong type of fire engine and how the crews were too small.

“This just seemed complete rubbish.

“If they are in a situation where they get a call for a ‘proper’ fire where they know the size of the crew needed they should be sending out what is needed.

“But a fire engine should be able to handle anything from a bin fire to a house fire. Those lads were forced to sit there unable to help.”

Making his way through the house he was able to turn off the water, which had begun to spurt from the mains, whilst searching for his parents. As he did this he discovered the body of his parent’s 10 year-old Jack Russell, Pip.

Soon after he left the building, additional firemen arrived, but the family fear a tragedy could have occurred had his parents not woken up in time. The heat from the fire had caused aerosol cans in the garage to explode and the noise had woken them .

Mr Warren’s father, aged 79, discovered the fire and managed to pull his disabled wife to safety through a patio door.

Mr Warren said he was frustrated that the first responders had to wait for backup.

Mr Warren said: “I was angry with them but I was worried and still am, things could have taken a different turn in just a few more minutes.

He added: “My mum is disabled and she would never have been able to get out herself, if it had taken out my dad, they would both be dead.”

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said the first crew was given an updated address after the first calls of a fire in the open at 11.40pm. The size of the fire however meant they had to await ‘additional resources’, and a hose reel jet was deployed to prevent the fire spreading further.

Both they and the North Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union say the public needs to provide as much detail as possible when reporting an incident. However the union are also calling on Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones to look at the incident as an example of why crewing levels for TRVs should be changed.

Simon Wall, Brigade Chair said: “Our main concern is that our crew was sent to what was believed to be a small fire out in the open with a TRV, as is protocol.

“The problem is that this is a dangerous practice, this turned out to be a serious building fire and for between 10 and 15 minutes firefighters had to wait until another crew arrived because of the insufficient one originally sent.”