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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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Inside Out North West: new colour footage of city fire tragedy – 50 years on

New colour footage of the Henderson's fire disaster in Liverpool 50 years ago has been discovered and will be broadcast for the first time tonight.

Inside Out will show the footage, at 7.30pm on BBC One North West, as part of a film that remembers the devastating day in June 1960, when 11 people were killed as fire ripped through the department store that used to be on Church Street.

The film emerged from the archives of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service. The programme also re-unites two of the bravest men from that day who haven't seen each other for half a century.

Retired fireman George Taylor, from Ainsdale, scaled a 100ft ladder to rescue survivors who were trapped on a fourth floor window ledge surrounded by choking smoke and flames.

He said: "When I arrived at the scene there was quite a lot of smoke and flame coming out of the building and the people were actually trapped on the ledge on the fourth floor. I fortunately had a buckle on my belt with a hook which secures you to the ladder and when the driver of the turntable ladder saw the situation he had the ladders extending so that we could get the people off the ledge. Because I had the belt on I was able to get up the ladder and get the people off the ledge from the fourth floor. But unfortunately one chap who was to the left of the ladder, he was pushed off by the heat and pressure from the smoke from the building and he fell down onto the canopy."

George Taylor was reunited with Peter Smith, one of the men who helped to get people onto the ledge. Peter, from Little Neston, was 18 at the time and working in the store. He was given a Queen's commendation for his bravery on that day.

The film also features retired chauffeur at Henderson's, Joe Sugar, who remembers running into the burning building to try and help.

He said: "I ran up the escalator which had stopped, to the first floor. And this is absolutely true, I was lucky because I was going to try and get to this fire because I was on the fire fighting squad. And I took about four paces in, it was thick smoke, and it was pitch black obviously because all of the lights had gone out. With all of the fixtures being fitted to the windows there was very little natural light there. And I realised if I had gone any further I would have been trapped and I turned round and came back and went down the escalator. That's how lucky I was and I thank God for that."

As a result of the fire, new laws were introduced to make conditions safer in shops and offices.

Simon Ryan, historian Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service said: "In all respects it was the one post-war fire in Liverpool that virtually everybody remembers that was alive that day. It really did get into the psyche of the people of Merseyside."

Notes to Editors

Use of information in this press release must be credited to BBC One Inside Out North West

Henderson's Fire will be broadcast on Inside Out, BBC One North West, 7.30pm, Monday 8 March 2010.


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