Leading fireman Stephen Maynard, 26, was killed at this fire in the hold of a ship, MV Rudi M, docked in Regent’s Canal Dock, Limehouse Basin.
The fire was caused by workers using hot cutting equipment. An aluminium tank was being cut out of the ship’s hold when sparks ignited its coating of polyurethane foam. Maynard was one of the breathing apparatus crew who were caught in the hold as it erupted into flames and smoke.
Seeking answers, an article published in The Firefighter months later asked: “Was this fire hero killed by the cuts?” It noted that Maynard had only just been promoted when he was killed.
One concern surrounding his death was that the firefighting foam units, who would have been equipped to douse a ship’s tank with foam, were not at the scene in time. Foam units were normally sent with firefighters called out to ship fires. However, the Greater London Council had pushed through cuts to services in order to pay for the firefighters’ new 42-hour week.
One foam unit, previously based close to Poplar in East Ham, had been relocated further out in Barking. Another unit in Shoreditch was axed altogether, the article pointed out. So on this occasion foam units travelling from Barking arrived too late, and consequently, the officer in charge was unable to flood the tank with foam before firefighters were sent in.
FBU’s London Fire Brigade health and safety representative Jim Rogers said:
“What sort of a society do we live in where the only way we can pay for decent wages for firemen is by cutting equipment which saves our lives?”
The brigade placed a plaque in Stephen Maynard’s memory outside the station and firefighters hold a minute’s silence there every year.