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Holiday Inn, Walsall

A photo of the Holiday Inn, Walsall on fire, with their sign in the foreground.

A review of how a fire spread through a West Midlands hotel is being carried out by West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS).

Firefighters arrived at the Holiday Inn near Walsall within 4 minutes of being mobilised. They immediately started to tackle what was already a significant fire, which soon consumed much of the building.

Aerial photo by Walsall Fire Station, other photographs by John Kennett.

999 calls started to be received shortly before 4pm on Friday 2 August 2019, to the site near Junction 10 of the M6 motorway.

WMFS were supported at the scene throughout the weekend by colleagues from several other agencies and the hotel management.

Our fire investigators are satisfied that the fire started accidentally, in the hotel sauna area.

Gary Taylor, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, said: “Our Fire Control received a 999 call from the Holiday Inn at 3.54pm to a report of an electrical fire in the sauna. Two fire engines were mobilised within 42 seconds, as part of our pre-planned initial response to the site. The first crews arrived in under four minutes.

“Two teams of firefighters wearing breathing apparatus immediately entered the building to fight the fire. However, the fire had already entered the roof space. Shortly afterwards it spread to other parts of the building.

“Fortunately, the premises were successfully evacuated and so our crews tackled the fire from outside. The roof had completely collapsed and we had real concerns about the stability of the remaining structure.”

At its height there were around 50 WMFS personnel at the incident. Over the weekend a total of 19 fire engines, six Brigade Response Vehicles, three aerial platforms and more than 100 personnel were there.

ACFO Taylor added: “The premises were not fitted with fire sprinklers but, previously, our fire safety officers had recommended they be retro-fitted in line with our Fire Authority’s position.

“Our fire investigators believe that the fire started accidentally, in the sauna room. However, we will be carrying out further investigations to try to pinpoint the precise cause. We will also be looking in detail into factors that might have contributed to the spread and scale of the fire.

“This incident is a stark reminder to us all about the devastating impact a fire can have. It underlines the importance of businesses having up-to-date fire safety procedures, and of their staff, guests and visitors familiarising themselves with escape routes as an absolute priority.”

Emergency Services Show 2019

Two firefighters compete in the 2018 first aid and trauma challenge at the NEC

We’re really looking forward to hosting two realistic and interactive road traffic collision (RTC) rescue challenges at this year’s Emergency Services Show.

Taking place at the NEC, Birmingham from 18 to 19 September, the Extrication and First Aid & Trauma Challenges will provide an arena for some of the UK’s best rescue personnel to come together and develop their proficiency levels in all areas of RTC rescue.

An image of the road traffic collision extrication challenge at last year's Emergency Services Show

On both days of the show, which is free to attend, competing teams from across the country will perform extrications from a series of realistic RTC scenarios featuring heavy and complex damage. Volunteer members of the our own Casualty Simulation Group will play the roles of casualties, complete with make-up and prosthetics.

Teams will have 20 minutes from their ‘arrival’ at these simulated incidents to complete as much of the scenario as is safely possible. The action will be captured from a variety of camera angles and broadcast live to a large display screen.

In the First Aid & Trauma Challenge, teams of two will experience visual and audio inputs from a trauma scenario that has been set up and filmed especially, in an ‘immersive’ tent. They’ll have 10 minutes to assess, treat, ‘package’ and handover the patient to a medic.

Both challenges will be judged by the United Kingdom Rescue Organisation (UKRO) who will ensure that best safe working practices are promoted in the areas of incident command and control, safety and scene assessment, extrication, professional pre-hospital care and expert use of rescue equipment.

Various national fire and rescue service crews will compete aiming to become the highest qualifying regional team. These top teams then go on to compete in national and international championships.

Watch Commander Martin McManus of West Midlands Fire Service said: “UK fire and rescue services strive to deliver the ‘gold standard’. They respond every year to thousands of incidents, many of which are extremely challenging and technical. As vehicle design and technology develop at pace, it’s essential that our crews train regularly and keep on top of these developments so they can respond quickly, safely and professionally when they’re called.”

The Extrication and First Aid & Trauma Challenges promise to be highly interactive and immersive experiences for participants and show visitors alike. The Emergency Services Show also offers a programme of free CPD seminars covering Lessons Learnt, Health & Wellbeing, Emerging Technologies and IT, while the College of Paramedics will host its well-attended CPD training sessions on both days of the event.

With over 450 exhibiting companies, The Emergency Services Show is the UK’s largest event for the emergency services and offers many opportunities to get hands-on with the latest kit and simulation technology. It is supported by the Airport Fire Officers Association, British Fire Services Association, Fire Industry Association, FIRE AID and International Development, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, Institution of Fire Engineers, JESIP, The Fire Fighters Charity, the National Fire Chiefs Council and UKRO.

All aspects of The Emergency Services Show, including the exhibition, seminars and challenges are free to attend, as is parking at the venue. To register for free entry and to find out more visit www.emergencyuk.com

Two firefighters compete in the 2018 first aid and trauma challenge at the NEC

Our emergency response work is rated ‘outstanding’

A graphic representing a city skyline

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) has been graded as ‘Good’ in a report published today (20 June) by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS). 

This is the first report completed by HMICFRS into WMFS since the inspection programme recommenced in 2018 after a break of several years, during which time WMFS has seen significant government funding reductions.    

Overall the inspectorate has commented that they are ‘very pleased with the performance of West Midlands Fire Service in keeping people safe and secure, and in particular with its effectiveness 

This has been made possible through the commitment of our staff in supporting the organisation to evolve so as to maintain or improve vital services to the community. We hope that people across the West Midlands take confidence from the way in which we respond to incidents and reduce risk and vulnerability within the community.  

WMFS is the only fire and rescue service, out of 30 assessed in two rounds of inspections to date, to receive the top ‘outstanding’ rating for its emergency response work.  

Our response work contributes to our overall rating of ‘good’ for effectiveness, efficiency and how well we look after our staff. 

Phil Loach, our Chief Fire Officer, said: “We know, from our previous consultations, that the public expect and value a gold standard emergency response service. I’m delighted by the report’s recognition of the hard work, dedication and professionalism of staff in providing exactly that. 

“We get to our most life-threatening emergencies in an average of 4 minutes and 43 seconds. This is made possible by our Service Delivery Model, which enables us to deliver assertive, effective and safe emergency response.” 

The report adds that WMFS “has developed a comprehensive understanding of risk” which helps us plan the use of our resources effectively to deliver response, prevention and protection services. 

CFO Loach added “Because we understand risk and how to manage it through prevention and protection activities, we can use our different shift systems and different vehicles with differently sized crews to be in the community working to reduce risk and vulnerability. This work is done by the same frontline firefighters who respond to 999 calls and is targeted at the West Midlands’ most vulnerable people and premises. 

“We welcome the report from HMICFRS and our staff and communities should be reassured that there are many areas for celebration. As an organisation we are always looking for ways to improve and there are areas within the report which recommend areas for focus. We will use the information in the report as part of the evidence to support ongoing development.  As an organisation we aim to continue to deliver a first-class service to make our communities safer, stronger and healthier.” 

Cllr John Edwards, Chair of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority commented: “I’m very pleased with the outcome of this national inspection. Across the measures of effectiveness, efficiency and people West Midlands Fire Service has been found to have an overall grading of ‘good’, and on the vital issue of responding to incidents we have been ranked as ‘outstanding’.  

Our average response time to life-threatening incidents is validated at 4 minutes 43 seconds, probably the fastest in the UK 

Given the unprecedented level of government funding reductions totalling £38 million since 2011 this performance is remarkable. My thanks go to every member of staff at WMFS who have contributed to this achievement. It underlines the success of the strategy that has been implemented over many years.” 

To read our full report and press release from HMICFRS, please click here. 

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