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News items related to incidents we have attended or are involved in.

Freddy’s free!

Freddy the Jack Russell

The owner of an 11-year-old dog that was trapped down a hole for 24 hours has praised the ‘extraordinary’ efforts of the West Midlands firefighters who rescued him.

Freddy the Jack Russell vanished on the morning of 22 November when he was out for a walk in Sutton Park with Richard Hill.

“I thought I’d seen him for the last time,” said the relieved 55-year-old. “What the firefighters did was just amazing.”

Mr Hill called 999 just after 8am on Tuesday 23 November after spending Monday and overnight trying to find his four-legged friend.

He had reached into the hole with his mobile phone and confirmed Freddy was down it by recording his distressed whimpers.

Mr Hill sent his precise location to Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control using the what3words app.

A fire engine and five firefighters from Sutton Coldfield were on the scene in just three minutes. They were joined near the park’s Town Gate by the RSPCA and members of our Technical Rescue Unit, based at Wednesbury, and started a two-hour dig to free Freddy.

Mr Hill, who works as a TV cameraman and lives in Suffolk, spends a few days a week living in Sutton where he helps to care for his mother.

“The firefighters were just unbelievable. Freddy is epileptic and needs to take medication, so I was very worried he’d gone for good.

“It was just incredible when he ran out of the hole – just like nothing had happened! He’s a bit orange at the moment, because of the colour of the soil. He’ll definitely be staying on the lead the next time we go out!”

Firefighters digging in Sutton Park to rescue Jack Russell
Freddy, a Jack Russell drinking water
Firefighters digging in Sutton Park to rescue Jack Russell
Firefighters digging in Sutton Park to rescue Jack Russell

Hoverboard explosion – safety warning

The charred remains of a hoverboard

Dramatic footage of a hoverboard battery exploding – just feet from the bedroom of a bed-bound West Midlands woman – has been released, with a stark warning to take care when charging electrical items.

Home security video shows the moments a lithium ion battery spewed its molten contents across the downstairs living room of a Smethwick house, setting the room alight.

Jacqueline Barrett (54), who has multiple sclerosis and heart problems, remains in hospital in an induced coma after being rescued from the property by West Midlands firefighters. She was in her downstairs bedroom, next to the lounge, when the fire took hold.

Now one of her sons, who is also her carer, is warning people to take extra care when charging any electrical devices.

Shane Johnson (34) said: “It’s awful. My mum’s really ill in hospital. The fire and smoke damage to the house is just unbelievable.

“Mum called me moments after it happened, to say there’d been some sort of explosion. The first thing I did was call the fire service, then got in the car to get to her as quickly as possible.

“I called my dad and some friends. Some got there before me, and dad had tried to kick the door in to get to mum, but the heat from the fire was just too much.

“If anyone needs a warning about leaving things unattended when they’re charging, or plugged in when they’re fully charged, this is it. It could happen to anyone.”

The charred remains of a hoverboard

Crews from West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) responded to the incident in Stony Lane just after 5pm on Saturday 13 November. Five fire engines and a Brigade Response Vehicle, crewed by a total of nearly 30 firefighters, tackled the fire.

The first crew arrived within five minutes of being mobilised and were met with a severe fire in the semi-detached property. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus quickly located and brought Jacqueline out of her downstairs bedroom, and she was taken to hospital by ambulance.

A WMFS fire investigator has confirmed that the fire started accidentally, as a hoverboard was being charged in the house.

Pete Wilson, WMFS’s Strategic Lead for Prevention, said: “This incident is horrific. Our thoughts are with Jacqueline, her family and friends at such a difficult time.

“We are extremely grateful to Shane for allowing us to share the home security video. It should send a clear warning to people to take utmost care when charging electrical items.

“The warning is particularly timely in the run up to Christmas, when we know people will be buying electrical items. Please – always buy goods from reputable retailers and check they meet British safety standards.”

Safety tips for charging electrical devices:

  • never leave items charging under pillows, on/in a bed or on soft furnishings
  • don’t overcharge items. Once they’re charged, unplug them
  • always use branded, genuine plugs and cables recommended for the specific device
  • if cables become broken, frayed or damaged, stop using and replace them
  • check that the output voltage and current ratings marked on the charger and your electrical device are the same
  • always buy goods from reputable retailers and check they meet British safety standards

Click here for more of our home safety tips.

Fire risk warning to West Midlands smokers

Stubbed out cigarettes in an ash tray

Smokers in the West Midlands are being urged to take extra care following a house fire which killed two men.

Fire investigators who examined the scene of the tragedy in Bushbury Lane, Wolverhampton believe that a cigarette ignited a sofa.

Stubbed out cigarettes in an ash tray

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) responded to the fire at 2.03am on Monday 25 October. Crews from Bilston, Dudley, Fallings Park and Wolverhampton fire stations were met with a severe blaze on the ground floor.

Two men in their late forties were rescued. Very sadly, in spite of the efforts of firefighters and paramedics, one of the men died at the scene and the other in hospital.

Pete Wilson, WMFS’s Strategic Lead for Prevention, said: “Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this awful incident. We will be preparing a full report for Her Majesty’s Coroner, but our investigators believe that the fire started when a cigarette ignited a sofa.

“It is a stark and sobering reminder of the fire risks associated with smoking. We are urging all smokers in the West Midlands to take extra care.

“Fires caused by smoking materials such as cigarettes, roll-ups, cigars and lighters result in more deaths than any other type of fire. In the five years to March of this year, smoking was a factor in a third of the 51 fire deaths in the communities we serve.

“In the same period, we recorded 613 fires related to smoking in people’s homes. That’s nearly eight per cent of all incidents to which our firefighters responded.

“Of course, we would much rather that people didn’t smoke but do appreciate that many people find it difficult to stop. Advice on giving up is available from the NHS and a range of other organisations, and our firefighters can share valuable safety advice in your home if you request one of our Safe and Well visits.”

In the five years to March 2021, nearly two thirds of smoking-related incidents attended by WMFS started in bedrooms, living rooms or in refuse, for example a bin or rubbish chute.

Falling asleep contributed to nearly 17 per cent of smoking-related fires in the home and distraction to 12 per cent.

Safety Tips for Smokers

  • always make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished
  • take extra care when you’re tired, taking any sort of drugs or have been drinking alcohol. It’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning. Never smoke in bed
  • never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended – they can easily overbalance as they burn down
  • use a proper, heavy ashtray that can’t tip over easily and is made of a material that won’t burn and don’t let the ash or cigarette ends build up in it
  • A small amount of water in the ashtray will help to make it safer
  • tap your hot ash into an ashtray, never a wastebasket or bin containing other rubbish
  • keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach. Ideally, buy child-resistant lighters and matchboxes.

If you’re looking to give up smoking and would like advice or support, visit the NHS website for help and guidance.

Caught on camera! Candle fire rips through flat

ceiling burning and smoke as candle fire rips through flat

A West Midlands man has warned people to take care with candles, after a home security camera caught a candle fire ripping through his flat.

Wazcar Abreu briefly left his home after lighting tealights. Just minutes later he returned to find it ablaze and ten West Midlands firefighters tackling the flames.

Footage from his security camera shows him lighting the tealights on a shelf, in memory of a relative. After he briefly pops out of his flat, the tealights ignite combustible items nearby. It takes just two minutes for the fire and smoke to consume the first-floor landing.

At the start of Home Safety Week, which is led by the National Fire Chiefs Council, we’re echoing Wazcar’s call for people to take extra care with candles and tealights.

He said: “I only left the flat for a few minutes but then got a call from a friend telling me what was happening.

“It all happened so quickly, the speed of the fire and the firefighters arriving. There was lots of fire and smoke. I still can’t believe it, so I want to send a message to people to please take care.”

We got the 999 call to Summer Road in Erdington from a passer-by. Just after 7.20pm on 14 May 2021 they saw a window being blown out by an aerosol exploding in the heat of the fire.

Two fire engines, from Ward End and Sutton Coldfield fire stations, arrived within five minutes.

Crew Commander Dave Bailey, from Ward End fire station, said: “It’s incredibly rare for a candle fire like this to be caught on camera. The footage not only shows the nightlights being lit but the speed at which the resulting fire develops.

“We needed to wear breathing apparatus and to force our way into the empty flat, before using hose reel jets to extinguish the flames.

“The fire damage was confined to the landing area, but could have been much worse. Fortunately, no-one was hurt but there was extensive smoke damage throughout.

“Please never leave burning candles unattended, even if only for a few seconds or minutes. Keep them well away from other combustible items. When you do blow them out, make sure they’re fully extinguished.

“Be sure to fit and regularly test smoke alarms on every level of your home and in the areas you use most. Whenever you leave home or go to bed, always close internal doors to help stop the spread of flames and smoke if there is a fire.”

Still candleAvoiding Candle Fires

Candles can create a relaxing or special atmosphere, but also bring fire into your home. So to avoid candle fires please use them carefully:

  • keep burning candles in sight and extinguish them before leaving a room or going to sleep
  • never burn a candle on, or near, anything that can catch fire
  • keep them out of the reach of children and pets, and away from anywhere they might knock them over
  • place burning candles at least three inches apart so they don’t melt one another or create draughts that can cause the candles to flare
  • always use a sturdy, heat-resistant candle holder on a heat-resistant surface that’s big enough to contain drips and melted wax
  • keep burning candles away from draughts, vents, ceiling fans and air currents. Draughts could also blow lightweight items into a flame where they could catch fire.

A candle with the wick smoking just after being put outPutting them out

Extinguishing candles with water could cause hot wax to splatter or a glass container to shatter. Instead, use a metal spoon or a snuffer. Make sure a candle is completely extinguished and the wick is no longer glowing before leaving the room. Never use a candle as a nightlight. Never touch or move a burning candle when the wax is liquid.

Find out more about keeping safe in the home on our Safety in the home page.

Off-duty WMFS Firefighter saves life of boy trapped in severe house fire

Firefighter Russ Jones stood in front of a fire engine

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) has praised the swift and selfless actions of an offduty firefighter who saved the life of a young child trapped in a severe house fire. 

Following reports of an ‘orange glow’ coming from a house on Farren Road, Firefighter Russ Jones rushed over to help, on Thursday 18 March.

Firefighter Russ Jones stood in front of a fire engine

After making a call to WMFS Fire Control, Firefighter Jones was informed that the male occupant’s son was missing in the property. Hearing screams and recognising the severity of the fire on the first floor, Firefighter Jones concluded the young boy must be on the ground floor, so started looking through the windows to locate him. 

After spotting a curtain moving in the front room, he looked closer to see the boy lying on the floor by the front room window. Smashing the window with a rock, Russ then quickly removed some of the glass before he leaned in and pulled the child to safety. 

Firefighter Jones’s eight colleagues from Northfield Fire Stationfive firefighters from Kings Norton and another five from Woodgate Valley attended the scene minutes later. Sixteen breathing apparatus and three hose reel jets were used to tackle the large fire which had broken out upstairs. 

 The boy was treated for minor injuries by West Midlands Ambulance colleagues and then transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital  

Russ Jones, who has been a firefighter for West Midlands Fire Service for the last 24 years, said: 

“As soon as I saw the fire and was told a young child missing in the property, I had to do something. The fire was too intense upstairs and because I could hear the screams I knew the boy had to be on the ground floor. Without my firefighting kit there it was too dangerous for me to enter the property, so I had to find a way of trying to locate the boy and rescue him. I’m just so grateful I did and that he is ok.  

 I did what any of my colleagues would have done in the same situation. I’m a dad myself, so I’m just so grateful I managed to locate the boy and get them out of the property.” 

 Group Commander at West Midlands Fire Service, Marc Hudsonsaid: 

“The swift and selfless actions of Firefighter Jones represent the very best of West Midlands Fire Service. We’re very proud of Russ for saving the young boy’s life, had he not acted so quickly and professionally, this incident may have ended in tragedy.  

 I’d also like to commend the on-duty crews from Northfield, Kings Norton and Woodgate Valley who arrived in just over three minutes and worked extremely hard to extinguish the severe fire.”   

Fire Investigators who attended the scene confirmed the fire was accidental. 

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