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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Katrine Bussey

Firefighter’s tribute to grandfather who died tackling blaze 50 years ago

A firefighter paid a touching tribute to his grandfather at a service to remember seven men who died battling a warehouse blaze 50 years ago.

William Hooper was one of the firefighters who died in the Kilbirnie Street fire in Glasgow on August 25 1972.

Five decades after the event, his grandson Derek Roden, a crew commander with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), laid a fireman’s helmet on the altar during a memorial service at Glasgow Cathedral.

The helmet was a replica of the type his grandfather would have worn while tacking the blaze, which also killed Andrew Quinn, Alistair Crofts, Iain Bermingham, Allan Finlay, Duncan McMillan and James Rook.

William Hooper was one of seven men who died tackling the warehouse blaze in Kilbirnie Street. (Scottish Fire and Rescue Service/PA)

As emergency crews tried to evacuate the burning building, firefighter Rook had become trapped, with divisional officer Quinn leading a team of volunteers to try to rescue him.

But, as the search party entered the building, the fire ignited the hardwood ceilings on the first floor, causing a massive ‘flashover’, leading to their deaths.

Mr Roden said he had been “proud to take on the honour” and represent his family at Thursday’s service.

Mr Roden, who is based at Glasgow’s Castlemilk Community Fire Station, spoke about his grandfather, saying: “I’ve seen photos of my grandfather and I know he was a keen piano player.

“They used to have parties and have everyone round to their house. He was very sociable.

“He was 43 when he passed, and I look at photos of him, I’ve just turned 40 this year and here I am almost at his age – the same as him.”

SFRS interim chief officer Ross Haggart paid tribute to the “bravery and selfless dedication” of those who died.

He told the service: “Fifty years ago on Friday August 25 1972, Glasgow suffered a terrible tragedy when seven brave firefighters lost their lives at the warehouse fire on Kilbirnie Street on the city’s south side.

SFRS interim Chief Officer Ross Haggart said the seven men had made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’. (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“The grief shook the whole of Scotland as the nation mourned seven brave men.

“Half a century later, the sadness surrounding the tragic event is still profoundly felt by everyone who is associated with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

“The memories of those brave men continue to march on.”

Mr Haggart said that the spirit of the seven firefighters “lives on in every person around the world who wears a fire service crest with pride and risks their own life every day to save the lives of others”.

He continued: “That bravery and selfless dedication drives every firefighter. It’s what motivates them to join the service and its what sees them commit themselves without question to situations many can never dare to even imagine.

“The tragic incident on August 25 1972 was just such a situation, tragically resulting in the premature loss of seven brave men.

“The ultimate sacrifice made in the Kilbirnie Street fire will always be remembered. Their actions will never be forgotten.”

Two vintage fire engines from 1972 were stationed outside Glasgow Cathedral during the service, as part of the tributes to the men who died.

Scottish Health  Secretary  Humza Yousaf was amongst those who attended the service, saying afterwards: “I am grateful to be able to pay tribute at the 50th anniversary of the Kilbirnie Street fire to the brave officers who lost their lives that day and to acknowledge the devastating impact it has had on their families.

“It is a moment to remember their sacrifice, and also to recognise the dedication to duty shown by the thousands of firefighters across Scotland who continue to risk their lives to protect us.”

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