Teenage girls held after blaze kills firefighter

Two 15-year-old girls have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after a firefighter was killed tackling a blaze at a city centre hair salon.

Firefighters tackling a major fire in a shop in Manchester city centre, where a firefighter has died after being pulled from the blaze.

AFirefighter Stephen Hunt, 38, was part of a team responding to a fire at Paul’s Hair World in Oldham Street, Manchester, when he and a colleague got into difficulties on Saturday night.

Both were pulled from the building and taken to hospital but the father-of-two was declared dead on arrival.

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A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said: “A joint investigation into the cause of the fire is underway and two 15-year-old girls have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.”

Detective Superintendent Phil Owen said: “We are working with our colleagues from the fire service to establish how this fire, which has tragically claimed the life of a fire fighter, started.

“We have already arrested two juveniles in connection with the fire and our enquiries are continuing.

“If anyone has any information about how the fire started please get in touch.”

Yesterday Mr Hunt’s shattered family were coming to terms with his death and were described as being “absolutely grief-stricken’’.

County Fire Officer for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Steve McGuirk said: ‘’We are devastated by the loss of one of our colleagues who has died in the line of duty.’’

Mr McGuirk said Mr Hunt is thought to have been enveloped by some kind of “super heat’’.

He added: “At the minute it’s really too early to say what’s led to the firefighter’s death.

“It doesn’t look like a building collapse or that he fell through 
any floors. The early indications are an absolutely massive, ferocious and sudden build-up of heat.

‘’But where that came from and what caused that we have got absolutely no idea at this stage. That’s really the purpose of the investigation that we are now engaged in.’’

Mr McGuirk said he could not rule out that the sudden intense heat may have been generated by steam or chemicals from inside the hair salon.

He said: ‘’We never expect to lose a colleague in this way and it brings home the dangers that our firefighters put themselves in every day to keep the community safe.

“Stephen had been a dedicated firefighter since 2008 and we are all in a state of shock.

“It is a very sad day for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and all our thoughts are with Stephen’s family and friends.’’

The fire began around 2.50pm on Saturday and was still being dealt with yesterday.

Details of exactly what happened are unclear but an investigation into the cause of the fire has been launched.

Arson is not being ruled out.

Mr McGuirk said fire crews thought they were starting to get the blaze under control by about 8.30pm on Saturday but for some reason, for which they did not yet have an explanation, a “BA emergency’’ was declared – which is a signal for everybody to evacuate the building.

“When that took place two firefighters were pulled from the building by their colleagues, very seriously injured,’’ said Mr McGuirk.

Paramedics treated the firefighters at the scene and took them to hospital but Mr Hunt was dead when he arrived at hospital just a few minutes later.

The other firefighter is not critically injured.

“We are really now trying to understand what happened and what led to this awful tragedy.’’

The chief fire officer said Mr Hunt had two teenage children and that his family were “absolutely grief-stricken’’ and said it was still a “very raw situation’’.

Mr McGuirk, who has been in the fire service for over 35 years, said everyone was in “deep shock’’.