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Hero FF Recalls the Moment He Became Disabled

Lancashire News via YellowBrix

June 15, 2011

LANCASHIRE, UK – Hero firefighter Steve Morris has spoken in detail for the first time about the six minutes that changed his life forever.

Three years after being permanently disabled in a house fire which killed a grandmother and her four-year-old granddaughter, Mr Morris has given his support to a disability hate crime campaign to be launched next week.

The blaze, in Little Holme Walk, Great Lever, on June 23, 2008, claimed the lives of Hameeda Begum, aged 71, and her granddaughter Alana Mian.

The firefighter, part of Green Watch at Bolton Central Fire Station, suffered burns to 52 per cent of his body and had to have all his fingers amputated.

He broke his elbow, damaged his spine and had to learn to walk again.

Pictures of Mr Morris can now be seen on campaign advertisements around the borough. Under the slogan “I’m not laughing”, he talks openly about his memories of the 999 call that turned his world upside down.

He tells of the searing heat inside the house, the explosion which engulfed him in flames turning him into a human torch, and how his protective clothing melted to his skin and then had to be peeled off, taking his skin with it.


Hero firefighter Steve Morris with his sister Sharon Dewar

In the account, he says he woke up in a hospital bed seven weeks later, but could not return home for a further eight months.

Here, The Bolton News prints his harrowing story in full. Mr Morris said: It was close to midnight on June 23, 2008. I was a firefighter, part of a nineman crew called to attend a house fire in Bolton.

It was reported that people were trapped inside, there was a heightened state of urgency.

Four firefighters, including myself, got out of the fire engine and ran towards the house.

We had breathing apparatus sets on and we were already under air.

As we ran, we carried a hose reel from the fire engine.

But the house was too far away and the hose reel wouldn’t reach.

We dropped the hose and ran on towards the house.

It was filled with smoke, so we felt our way to the staircase.

We climbed the stairs and began our search to find the family.

I searched the front bedroom but didn’t find anyone.

I made my way towards the landing to join up with my colleagues who were searching at the rear.

It was dark and smoky.

Suddenly there was a flash and a massive rise in temperature.

All I could see was fire all about me, the heat was incredible.

I realised my uniform was on fire — I was like a human torch.

I tried to run back down the stairs, but fell and toppled the rest of the way down.

I managed to stand up and get to the front door, but I couldn’t see anything except fire.

I could feel the heat of the fire though my face mask — the skin on my face felt like it was melting.

It was then I felt the pain in my hands, my leather gloves were on fire and they’d shrunk on to my hands.

I had to get through that door, but all I could do was pound on the door to try and break it down.

The door eventually gave way and I managed to run round to get help.

When I reached the fire engines, my crew gave me first aid, along with a paramedic crew.

They had to cut my gloves off first — I was in agony.

As they cut and peeled my gloves away, I saw the skin on my fingers peel off with them. Then it was my boots. They too were made of leather and had shrunk and were crushing my feet.

My uniform was in tatters and I could still see the smoke coming from it — my body felt like it was still on fire.

I was put in the back of an ambulance where they sedated me and took me to hospital.

It would be seven weeks before I woke up and a further eight months before I returned home from hospital.

I had burns to 52 per cent of my body and had all my fingers amputated.

I broke my elbow and also damaged my spine and so I’ve had to learn to walk again as a result.

I’m now also hard of hearing as a result of the incident.

And what happened to the family involved in the house fire?

Sadly, two of the three family members died that night.

The grandmother died of her injuries at the scene and her granddaughter died seven weeks later in intensive care — she was only four years old. The daughter received burns to her face, hands and body and also suffered from smoke inhalation.

She was very lucky in one way — she survived.

We have CCTV attached to the front and rear of our fire engines which recorded the event.

On June 23, 2008, I ran from the fire engine a fit and able firefighter and returned six minutes later a permanently disabled man.

My life completely changed and it all happened so fast.

Three years down the line and I’m still having treatment for all my injuries which are permanent and complex.

Life is just one big hospital appointment and every day is a struggle now.

Close to the third anniversary of the tragedy, Mr Morris has wed his long-time partner, Pauline, in a private ceremony.

The joy of his wedding contrasts starkly with the daily struggle he faces, coming to terms with his injuries.

Mr Morris has not spoken about his wedding, preferring to keep it private, but borough fire service commander Ian Bailey said he was delighted for the pair.

He added: “Pauline has been an absolute inspiration.

“I’m really pleased to say they got married last weekend.

“Steve is still coming to terms with his injuries and he’s moving on with his life.

“He’s gone through a number of operations, more than 20.”

No one has been convicted of starting the fire which led to the deaths of two people and the horrific injuries caused to Mr Morris.

A £50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those behind the house fire was offered last year.

Anyone with any information should call the major incident team on 0161 856 2197 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

The I’m Not Laughing campaign will be officially launched next week.

The aim is to ensure that everyone who visits Bolton town centre on a night out to enjoy Bolton’s pubs and clubs can do so without fear of being verbally or physically abused because of their disability.

The campaign aims to make everyone who visits Bolton feel welcome in the town centre, and to ensure they are treated with respect.

Mr Morris was approached to front the campaign because of his high profile within the town.