Firefighters remember two who died in tragic Bethnal Green blaze in 2004

PUBLISHED: 15:05 08 December 2017 | UPDATED: 19:04 12 December 2017

Faust family (left) with Fire Brigade Union's Matt Wrack, London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton and retired Whitechapel fire-station manager Jon Scott. Picture: Stefano Cagnoni

Faust family (left) with Fire Brigade Union's Matt Wrack, London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton and retired Whitechapel fire-station manager Jon Scott. Picture: Stefano Cagnoni

Stefano Cagnoni

The families of two fire-fighters who died in a blaze in east London 13 years ago stood silently as a memorial was unveiled in their memory.

Memorial to Billy Faust and Adam Meere who died at Bethnal Green on June 20, 2004. Picture: Stefano Cagnoni Memorial to Billy Faust and Adam Meere who died at Bethnal Green on June 20, 2004. Picture: Stefano Cagnoni

The dedication of a red plaque on a marble plinth was staged at Bethnal Green’s Museum Gardens to Billy Faust and Adam Meere who lost their lives in 2004.

Their tragic deaths eventually led to improved training and safety procedures in the London Fire Brigade.

Billy, 36, and crewmate Adam, 27, both stationed at Whitechapel, were with several fire-crews called in to rescue two people trapped on the roof above a car tyre shop and dwellings on fire in Bethnal Green Road on July 20 that year.

But they were caught in the basement when an explosion ripped through the three-storey building.

“Firefighters accept the risk of their job,” retired Whitechapel station manager Jon Scott told the East London Advertiser.

“But it’s for all of us when you make the ultimate sacrifice. We should commemorate them and all the fallen firefighters killed in the line of duty.”

He was joined by Billy’s parents and two daughters, Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs, London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton and Fire Brigade Union general secretary Matt Wrack to unveil the marble memorial paid for by the Firefighters 100 Lottery.

Union chief Matt Wrack said: “We started the lottery to honour our fallen fire-fighters and hope our Red Plaque scheme becomes recognisable as we unveil more over the coming years.”

The sacrifice by the two Whitechapel firefighters 13 years ago was recalled by Mayor Biggs, who said: “This plaque at Museum Gardens is a reminder that firefighters risk their lives on a daily basis to protect us.”

A fellow firefighter who dragged Adam Meere’s body from the blaze began a campaign soon after to improve safety and training in the fire brigade.

Frederick Hulbert, from the former Bow fire-station, took legal action against the London Fire Authority claiming negligence after water supplies to hose reels had been turned off. His fight was taken up by the union which led to a change of procedures.

Firefighters from all over Britain lobbied Parliament in 2008 over the number of deaths in the fire and rescue services, with 13 lost lives in the five years from 2003, including Billy Faust and Adam Meere.

The government’s emphasis on public education in home safety was “no substitute for a properly-trained fire and rescue service with proper resources”, the union told MPs. There was insufficient realistic ‘hot fire’ or specialist training on breathing apparatus and building construction.

Billy’s father David Faust, speaking to the Advertiser in 2008, said it became clear at the inquest that “there were systemic failures to train firefighters adequately”.

Fire crews from Whitechapel and Bethnal Green hold an annual minute’s silence at 8am every July 20 outside 419 Bethnal Green Road, which remains derelict 13 years on. Billy’s father has been joining them every year since.

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