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Firefighter remembered 36 years after Limehouse ship blaze

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 January 2019

Leading Fireman Stephen Maynard who died at a ship fire in Limehouse Basin 36 years ago. Picture: LFB

Leading Fireman Stephen Maynard who died at a ship fire in Limehouse Basin 36 years ago. Picture: LFB

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Firefighters have joined in a minute's silence to remember fireman Stephen Maynard who died at a ship fire in Limehouse Basin 36 years ago.

Every year members of Steve's family, retired members who attended the fire, local senior and principal officers line up at the side of the dock to commemorate the anniversary of his death. Picture: LFBEvery year members of Steve's family, retired members who attended the fire, local senior and principal officers line up at the side of the dock to commemorate the anniversary of his death. Picture: LFB

On January 17, 1980, crews from the Green Watch at Poplar fire station, who covered the Regents Canal Dock, were called to a fire caused by workers using hot cutting equipment on the ship.

The blaze was quickly tackled but work on the boat continued all month leading up to one fateful morning.

The Red Watch at Poplar had reported for duty at 6pm on Thursday, January 24.

Typically for Poplar at that time they had a very busy night with a number of calls with one fire engine spending much of the night fighting a huge fire at Chelsea Flour Mills in West London.

At around 8.30am the next day a number of the oncoming Green Watch started appearing.

Having had a long night a few of the Watch had decided to take an exchange duty so a few members of the Green Watch replaced Red Watch personnel.

At 8.55am a call was received from workers on the ship.

There was a fire in the hold. Once again contractors had accidentally set alight insulating material.

A breathing apparatus crew of firefighters Steve Maynard and Steve Debenham from the Red Watch, fire officer George Thomas and firefighter Gary Jones from Green Watch went in with a firefighting jet.

When he reached the top of the ladder, Steve Debenham noticed that Steve Maynard wasn’t behind him.

He went back down the ladder and all of a sudden the hold of the ship erupted into flame and smoke.

Steve Debenham was badly burned but Steve Maynard couldn’t escape. He tragically lost his life.

Hackney borough commander Steve Dudeney said: “The Brigade lost a good officer and his family and colleagues mourned his untimely death at the age of 26.”

The Brigade placed a plaque in Steve’s memory and every year on or around the anniversary retired members of Poplar fire station and the current crew hold a minute’s silence.

Thirty six years on members of Steve’s family, retired firefighters who tackled the flames, senior and principal officers lined up at the side of Limehouse Basin dock on Friday to commemorate the anniversary of Steve’s tragic death.

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