‘Invasive’ fire investigation set for Station Hill site

The incident which occurred recently saw huge plumes of smoke coming from the fire that erupted at the One Station Hill office tower that is currently under construction in the town centre.

During the fire, a construction worker was dramatically rescued by a crane operator, and two people had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

It also led to town centre streets being cordoned off and buildings evacuated while firefighters made the area safe on the day of the incident on Thursday, November 23.

Now, nearly two weeks on from the fire, enquiries are being undertaken by both the Health and Safety Executive and the  Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS), which will be conducting a ‘Tier 2’ investigation.

READ MORE: News that Health and Safety Executive will begin investigation into Station Hill fire welcomed 

The investigation was announced at a Royal Berkshire Fire Authority (RBFA) management committee meeting.

Councillor Paul Gittings (Labour, Coley) the vice-chair of the RBFA said: “This is the second incident in Station Hill, which is a prestige development.

“Reading members are very concerned about the reasons for this incident.

“One would hope those responsible take the measures required.” 

He then asked to be given an idea of how stringent the Tier 2 inspection will be, and how long it will take.

Mark Arkwell, the Deputy Chief Fire Officer of the RBFRS explained: “In short it’s a more advanced investigation.

“They are more invasive and quite specialist.”

He added that the investigation will be conducted alongside the West Midlands Fire Service, which it works in partnership with.

However, Mr Arkwell was unable to give a timeline for when the investigation will be completed.

The incident was the second fire at the Station Hill site this year, with an earlier break-out occurring on Friday, July 7.

At the time, firefighters remained on the scene after it was extinguished to make sure any hotspots were cooled down.

Cllr Gittings also asked whether any lessons had been learned from the operation in November.

Mr Arkwell replied: “Our crews are very well prepared to deal with these incidents. We debrief from all of those types of incidents.

“We have 180 plus high-rise buildings in Berkshire. Our staff are very well equipped and trained to deal with those incidents, but these incidents happen all too often, so we have to do all we can to prevent them occurring in the first place.”

READ MORE: Questions left unanswered a week on from Station Hill fire 

Councillors praised the speed with which firefighting crews attended, with three fire engines arriving at the scene in under eight minutes.

In total, more than  50 firefighters within 10 fire engines were involved in the operation.

The fire was contained within 30 minutes.

Cllr Jeff Brooks (Liberal Democrats, Thatcham West), the chair of the RBFA, said: “Its another great example of professionalism our staff. I’d like to commend the crane operator for an incredible rescue.

“I wondered if Tom Cruise was there for Mission Impossible 23 or whatever number they are on this time!”

He also offered his “sincere thanks” to all firefighters and partners such as the South Central Ambulance Service and Reading Borough Council.

Cllr Gittings added: “I’d like to congratulate the crews on their magnificent response.

“That’s a testament to the incredible professionalism of all those involved. 

“We were able to make a dramatic rescue.”

The information about the Tier 2 investigation was given at the management committee meeting yesterday (Monday, December 4).

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre