IN­SIDE THE IN­FERNO

RE­VEALED: BLOCHAIRN FIRE­FIGHT­ERS’ STORY

Evening Times - - FRONT PAGE - By HAN­NAH RODGER

ONE month ago, Glas­gow’s Blochairn fruit mar­ket was en­gulfed in flames and threat­ened with to­tal de­struc­tion.

Thanks to the ef­forts of the city’s fire­fight­ers much of the com­plex was saved.

The Evening Times has been granted ex­clu­sive ac­cess to the site and se­nior fire of­fi­cers to tell the story of the blaze.

VALIANT fire­fight­ers risked their lives bat­tling sear­ing heat and flames to save as many busi­nesses as they could dur­ing the Blochairn fruitmarket blaze.

Glas­gow’s fire chief has told of his crew’s heroic ef­forts to tackle the in­ferno which broke out four weeks ago to­day.

A 70-strong team ral­lied round Jim Hy­mas, the city’s top fire­fighter, and his deputy John Joyce as they led the op­er­a­tion on Au­gust 17.

The crews were de­ter­mined to save as many traders’ busi­nesses as pos­si­ble and got to work hem­ming in the flames us­ing cur­tains of wa­ter.

Through­out the night and the fol­low­ing day, they used more than half a mil­lion litres of wa­ter and rolled out close to a mile of hosepipe in their marathon ef­forts to stop fur­ther dam­age

Four high-reach­ing fire en­gines were de­ployed at each cor­ner of the build­ing to tackle the flames from above and, at the same time, fire­fight­ers laden with bulky breath­ing gear, hel­mets and heavy hosereels, stormed the build­ing’s in­ter­nal stair­cases.

Their in­cred­i­ble ef­forts man­aged to stop the flames reach­ing other parts of the com­plex, al­low­ing the rest of the mar­ket to open for trad­ing again less than 24 hours later.

Jim, Glas­gow’s lo­cal se­nior of­fi­cer, said he was “so proud” of his team, who bat­tled tem­per­a­tures of more than 1000 de­grees and a ceil­ing of flame as they en­tered the burn­ing build­ing.

Jim said: “That fire was in­cred­i­ble in its in­ten­sity and how fast it was spread­ing across both those blocks.

“What we tried to do is set up a mas­sive wa­ter cur­tain, ef­fec­tively like a fire break. As soon as we got there, we had to make an as­sess­ment.

“As hard as it is, we had to say ‘We’ve lost that part of the build­ing and we can’t bring it back. What I need to do is stop this spread­ing and keep as many of these traders in busi­ness as I can.’

“We were fo­cused on try­ing to keep as many peo­ple in busi­ness as long as pos­si­ble.”

“Those fire­fight­ers, they put them­selves in harm’s way to do the best they could.

“When they went in, the fire was rip­ping across the top of them and they were try­ing to knock it down and stop it with a mas­sive amount of wa­ter.

“The high-reach ve­hi­cles were put on each cor­ner to stop the fire spread­ing along that build­ing. While that was get­ting set up the fire­fight­ers were in­side that build­ing, in­side the in­ter­nal stairs try­ing to stop it from in­side.”

At one point he had to or­der his crew to with­drawn from the heart of the in­ferno as steel col­umns buck­led and twisted around them and brick­work blew out due to the scorch­ing heat.

He said: “Bits of the build­ing were lost and it started to col­lapse.

“The heat had man­aged to push out some of the steel col­umns which had burst open the brick work at the back.

“All the gird­ers were fall­ing down, the steel was fall­ing about them and they even­tu­ally had to evac­u­ate and with­draw to a cer­tain point.”

A ma­jor part of the job, Jim ex­plained, is know­ing when to back off, and how to re­spect the fire.

“Some­times the fire will drive you back,” he said.

“It is so in­tense and so hot, it’s be­ing driven by fuel and wind cur­rent.

“It’s a liv­ing thing, a liv­ing phe­nom­e­non and it will take your life if you don’t re­spect it.

“There were as­pects that were re­ally haz­ardous to our fire­fight­ers. They put them­selves in harm’s way to stop the fire get­ting to blocks A-F, block E and the fish mar­ket.”

Not only was Jim in con­trol of the lat­ter part of the op­er­a­tion, he was also re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing the traders up to date and pro­vid­ing re­as­sur­ance.

He ex­plained: “I was hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with the guys in the fish mar­ket who said if they lost their stall they would have lost 40 years of a fam­ily busi­ness.

“I told them that we were do­ing ev­ery­thing we pos­si­bly could, ex­plained where we were putting the wa­ter.

“I said ‘We are go­ing to stop this’. And we did it. The fire­fight­ers did it.”

As the dam­age from the blaze was so se­vere, fire in­ves­ti­ga­tors were un­able to get in to the site im­me­di­ately but are now work­ing to de­ter­mine the cause of the blaze.

De­mo­li­tion crews con­tinue to work on site to clear away the dam­age.

Work­men are still clear­ing the site at the whole­sale mar­ket. Pic­ture: Jamie Simp­son

Jim Hy­mas said the in­ten­sity of the fire at the fruitmarket was in­cred­i­ble

The af­ter­math of last month’s huge blaze shows ma­chin­ery de­stroyed, above left, work­ers con­tin­u­ing to as­sess the build­ing, above, our front page, in­set, bags of onions on top of wreck­age, top right, rolls of steel, sec­ond top, burnt-out sec­tions de­mol­ished, third top, and a van de­stroyed by the fire, right Pic­tures: Jamie Simp­son

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