Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Shirley Towers fire: Firemen awarded gallantry medals

Jim Shears (left) and Alan Bannon
Image caption Jim Shears (left) and Alan Bannon died in the blaze at Shirley Towers

Two Hampshire firefighters who died during a tower block blaze have been posthumously awarded medals for gallantry.

Jim Shears and Alan Bannon died in a fire at Shirley Towers in Southampton on 6 April 2010.

Their families were presented with Hampshire Fire Service's Meritorious Medal for Gallantry at St Mary's fire station in the city earlier.

They also received their helmets and station number lapels.

Mr Bannon's award and helmet was collected by his daughter Abi, while his station lapel was presented to his mother Margaret.

A statement from the Bannon family said: "Though this award cannot bring Alan back, it does go some way to recognising the risk that all firefighters put themselves at every day to protect us all.

"It is also something which will allow Abi to remember how brave her daddy was."

Mr Shears' medal was presented to his wife Carla and the helmet to his youngest son Ruben. His station lapel was collected by his father Ed.

A statement from the Shears family said: "Jim would probably have been a little embarrassed by this award as he never considered himself to be a hero. He just loved doing the job he always wanted to do.

"But he was always a hero to his family - a dedicated father, husband, uncle brother and son - and not a day goes by when we don't think of him and miss him dearly."

'Excessive heat'

In July an inquest jury recorded a verdict of death by misadventure into the firefighters' deaths.

The finding was delivered in conjunction with a narrative verdict which noted the pair died as a result of exposure to excessive heat.

The inquest heard how the fire on the ninth-floor flat of the 15-storey block started after a resident left a curtain resting on a lamp.

Karl Hoffman, who lived in the flat, told jurors he had tried to put out the fire with a cup of water and a bottle of soft drink before a neighbour dialled 999.

Image caption Mr Bannon's award and helmet was collected by his daughter Abi

The verdict went on to record that operating conditions for all firefighters involved in tackling the fire became extremely difficult and dangerous and this significantly contributed to the deaths of the men.

Two other firefighters were beaten back by the increasing heat and escaped under "considerable physical distress", the court heard.

The coroner said he would be making recommendations on safety improvements.

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