David lost his life in the line of duty on the 10th July 1991, alongside his colleague Terry Hunt. Their Red Plaque was presented on the 10th July 2021, the 30th anniversary of the fire, at the All Saints Church in Poplar, London.
David died whilst tackling the fire at a five-story warehouse in Bromley-by-Bow. The fire had broken out on the second floor of Hays Business Services’ warehouse which stored paper records. One hundred firefighters and 25 fire engines from stations including Stratford, Plaistow, East Ham, Millwall, Whitechapel, Poplar and Bow were called out to fight the flames and it was not brought under control for several hours. The maze-like warehouse interior along with the heat and humidity on the night made the job incredibly difficult. Both David and Terry entered the building to lay guide lines down to help their colleagues find their way around the building but both became trapped and ran out of oxygen. Following their deaths, the London Fire Brigade’s breathing apparatus safety procedure was heavily criticised by the FBU.
FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack has personal links to the tragedy – whilst acting as North East London Area Secretary he attended the fatal fire and had previously worked with Terry at Kingsland Fire Station. Matt, along with the then FBU London Regional Secretary Jim Fitzpatrick, investigated the incident and produced a report for the union. The London Fire Brigade was later served with two improvement notices by the Health and Safety Executive. At the unveiling event, Matt said:
“This was a tragic loss of life that has stayed with all concerned ever since and which devastated families and workmates. David and Terry did their duty and went into a dangerous warehouse fire, but paid with their lives. We continue to remember their bravery today, and they continue to be missed by family, friends and colleagues. At the FBU we are committed to remembering them, and fighting for firefighters‘ safety today.
“After the fire, we learnt lessons which informed later progress on breathing apparatus procedure. Yet attempts are now being made to try and weaken protections around breathing apparatus. This tragedy and tragedies like it show that this is never an option.”
Today, David is fondly remembered by his family, colleagues, and his brothers and sisters in the FBU.
Photo credits: Mark Thomas