HC Deb 14 January 1977 vol 923 cc603-4W
Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the fire at Wensley House, Hessle, which cost 10 lives.

Mr. Ennals

I have been asked to reply.

Wensley Lodge, West Hill, Hessle, consisted of three houses converted into a residential home partly of three stories and partly of two. The accommodation provided 61 places for elderly men although at the time of the fire only 50 men were in residence. The fire was discovered at 9.30 p.m. on Wednesday 5th January 1977 by a care assistant reporting for night duty. He immediately informed the officer in charge of the home, who was off duty The officer in charge raised the alarm, summoned the emergency services and proceeded with the assistant officer in charge and care assistant to evacuate residents, only four or five of whom were in the ground floor lounges, the remainder except for one resident who was out visiting a public house, having gone to their bedrooms. The staff were able to get to the upper floor only once before being driven back by smoke and flames. The fire appliances arrived approximately six minutes after being summoned.

After 15 minutes, firemen already hampered by falling debris had to be evacuated from the top floor because the roof was caving in. Fifteen appliances, 10 of which were pumping appliances, were used to tackle the fire which took two hours to get under control.

Of the 50 residents, 10 died, 19 had to be admitted to hospital, and 20 were admitted to other homes in the area. One other resident has since died in hospital. One fireman was injured as a result of falling down a lift shaft, an ambulance man suffered from an eye injury and the officer in charge of the home was admitted to hospital suffering with shock and the effects of smoke.

I am sure that hon. Members would wish to join me in expresing our deepest sympathy with all the bereaved, a speedy and full recovery to all those injured and our sincere appreciation of the prompt and efficient task performed by the emergency services, the staff of the County Social Services Department and the voluntary services.

The cause of the fire which is thought to have originated in a single bedroom on the first floor is being investigated. The county council is aware that I consider a formal inquiry will be necessary. The Council is to discuss this on 17th January, in the light of recommendations of its Social Services Committee and will then let me know what form it considers the inquiry should take.