Inferno 999 - Monday September 3

inferno 999 (1/8)

Inferno 999 goes to the heart of perilous firefighting situations as it follows the daily lives of Manchester’s fire crews. This eight-part series gains unique access to the work of these dedicated men and women with the help of pioneering camera technology.

The first edition sees the fire crews tackle a fire in a truck yard; an arson attack on two cars; and a blaze in a child’s bedroom. The brigade also comes to the rescue of a mother and daughter trapped in a ferocious house fire.

In the middle of the night, Manchester’s Amber Watch are called to a conflagration in a truck yard, where a vehicle containing gas cylinders is in danger of sparking a massive explosion. The team works quickly and decisively to extinguish the blaze. For watch commander Kirk ‘The General’ Cornwall, the incident represents the epitome of what firefighting is all about: “This is what you join for,” he says. “You get stuck in, get dirty and put fires out. Love it!”

Elsewhere, a team is despatched to the scene of a car fire. Fireman Dave ‘Dodgy’ Wolstenholme reflects on what might be awaiting them: “You never know what you’re going to get,” he says. “Could be a genuine car fire, where a car just bursts into flames, but that’s rare. They’re usually arson attacks.” Dave is proved correct when they arrive to find two cars owned by the same man ablaze. The watch extinguishes the fires but both cars are beyond repair. The commander suspects the cars’ owner has been the target of a personal attack, so he hands the case over to the police.

Car fires such as these are common in Manchester, with around 80 reported each week. But potentially more dangerous to the public and to firefighters are house fires. At nine o’clock in the morning, crews must tackle a blaze at a family home where a three-year-old boy with ADHD has set fire to his bedroom. The family has escaped but it takes the brigade over two hours to stamp out the fire and determine the likely cause: mum Tanya’s cigarette lighter.

However, the most dramatic incident of the edition comes when Blue Watch are called to a house fire where people are thought to be trapped. Cases with ‘persons reported’ put the crews on their highest alert. In this case, fire engines arrive to find the downstairs of the house has been consumed by flames, with two women stuck upstairs. Firefighter Kevin Williams risks his life to carry one of the women down the ladder without breathing gear or a helmet to protect him. After some confusion, the crew establishes that all the people inside have been rescued, and two men enter the house to tackle the inferno, where temperatures reaching 1,000°C have vaporised furniture and possessions. “It’s unbelievable… it’s burning my face!” one firefighter reports.

The house fire is one of the fiercest that the Manchester crews have ever tackled, and the Moss Side and Stretford Blue Watches are awarded commendations for bravery. There is also a personal commendation for Kevin Williams. It has been a typically hazardous mission for a service that constantly faces situations where a few seconds can make a difference between life and death.

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  • Steve

    this is what our job is about. anyone who thinks we just sit and drink tea or play pool should watch this. if were not doing these kobs then were training for them.

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