"It was a real privilege last night to be able to present
commendations for two acts of incredible bravery and courage.
In July 2009 there was a very serious incident in Beswick,
Manchester in which three people lost their lives.
Notwithstanding the self evident tragedy here, a number of people
were saved. There was a working smoke alarm in the property
which undoubtedly bought precious time, and was a major factor, but
equally important were the selfless acts of courage of members of
the family and friends. Indeed, one of the people who
perished - Carly Swift - lost her life battling to save her younger
brothers. So my commendations were to recognise Carly's courage and
also that of Danielle Beale who similarly acted incredibly bravely
and selflessly saving the lives of her friend's family - Sue,
Carly's mum, accepted the award on behalf of Carly.
The commendation event took place in the fire station engine
house and it was truly poignant and actually quite moving to be
able to re-unite the people who suffered this tragic event with the
operational crews who attended.
Speaking to the crews they described this incident as one of the
most difficult many of them had dealt with. Notwithstanding
the professional challenge, we can also easily forget the emotional
aspect for the firefighters who deal with incidents as difficult as
this one. They literally battled (a bit of an overused media
phrase but appropriate here) to bring the fire under control, and
to rescue and revive the children involved. So, it was also a
good opportunity for me - and the family of course - to say thank
you to them for their efforts and professionalism. Speaking
to the crews it was a helpful way of providing "closure" for
I really wish we didn't have evenings like last night and the
work we are doing fitting smoke alarms will continue to ensure
these become even more infrequent. But fires will still
happen and "some" tragedies will still occur - that is why we will
always need a highly professional fire and rescue service.
But when these events do occur we should also ensure that we take
the time to pause, reflect and show appreciation, for even in the
midst of the most horrendous situations the humanity and courage of
both professional firefighters and "ordinary" people like Carly and
Danielle is really quite inspirational and leaves one reassured
that we are all capable of so much more than we believe we are.