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'The crews did all they could': Chief fire officer on 'heartbreaking' Stafford house fire

By Jordan Reynolds | Stafford | News | Published:

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service's chief officer has spoken about the 'heartbreaking' house fire that claimed the lives of four children.

Riley Holt, aged eight, Keegan Unitt, six, Tilly Rose Unitt, four, and Olly Unitt, three, died in the fire in Sycamore Lane, Highfields, on February 5.

Keegan Unitt, 6, Tilly Unitt, 4, Olly Unitt, 3, and their older brother Riley Holt, 8

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s chief fire officer Becci Bryant arrived at the scene at 4am, less than two hours after the initial call.

She said: "I arrived at around 4am, when I arrived it was really obvious the crews had faced a really significant and challenging fire.

More on the Stafford house fire:

"The fire had predominantly been extinguished although there were a number of hotspots that the crews were having to deal with from outside the building.

"There's no doubt in my mind that they did absolutely everything they could, despite all of these efforts it resulted in the heartbreaking outcome that it did.

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"Quite early on crews knew they needed to preserve the scene, we knew that we were going to have quite a protracted fire investigation linked to it.

The home on Sycamore Lane

"Later on that day I had prevention teams in and around the area providing support as was needed.

"It's going to be a little while before the fire investigation has finished."

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Ms Bryant talked about the support on offer to all staff involved with the fire - not just he crews at the scene.

She said: "Really importantly whenever we deal with a traumatic incident we have a peer support process who aren't experts, but they try to spot very early signs that someone may need help. I had my first session on Monday as I went to the scene.

Dozens of flowers, teddy bears and tributes were left at the scene

"We're all affected slightly differently. It's not just the fire crews but also people such as the call handler who got the call, there will be ongoing support for them all.

"My condolences remain with the family affected.

"I took the opportunity to talk to each of the crews affected and I am really proud of what they did and the professional manner of the way they conducted themselves."

The news comes after it was revealed more than £31,000 raised for the family of four children killed in a house fire is to largely be used to support their two-year-old brother.

The trustees of funds raised for the Stafford house fire victims said their immediate priority was to make sure money is made available to support any funeral and memorial costs.

Some money will be used to help pay for the funerals but the trustees said as much of the costs were likely to be met by Stafford Borough Council and funeral directors, cash would be left over.

The remaining money will be left for two-year-old Jack, who survived the tragedy alongside his 24-year-old mother Natalie Unitt and her 28-year-old partner Chris Moulton, who jumped out of a first-floor window.

A man and a woman arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by gross negligence have been released on bail.

Jordan Reynolds

By Jordan Reynolds
Reporter - @jreynolds_star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star.

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