Refuse collectors ‘waste’ no time in flat fire rescue!

hero bin men

Two refuse workers and a dad-to-be have been hailed heroes for their brave actions in helping rescue two people from a flat fire in Carr Street, Birstall, last Tuesday (10/01/17).

hero bin men and fire crew

What happened?

Two of our waste collection team: Kevin Stainburn and Ian Chamberlain, were driving down Bradford Road at around 7am when they stopped at traffic lights and spotted flames in a flat window and pulled over to help.

A third passerby, Lee Foster, who is expecting to become a dad for the first time this week, happened to be driving directly behind the dustbin wagon and also saw the flames and stopped.

The three men managed to gain access to the flat complex and ran to the first floor flat alerting other occupants as they went.

They tried the flat door which was unlocked but secured by a chain. After knocking on the door and getting no response they realised somebody must be in the flat as the chain was on.

The three men then kicked the door and door frame out of its mountings. As the door was no longer containing the smoke they had to retreat back downstairs due to the amount of smoke.

Kevin, a dad-of-two from Dewsbury, got a torch and went back upstairs crawling under the smoke and into the flat where he could hear murmurings.

He has made his way into the living room and saw one of the male adult occupants laid on the floor near the sofa which was on fire.

Kevin, 53, dragged the man out and in doing so has inhaled a lung full of smoke himself. Leaving the casualty on the communal landing, Kevin re-entered the flat looking for the second occupant but was overcome by smoke.

Kevin dragged the first casualty down the stairs and into the fresh air, where he was assisted by Ian, while Lee, 41, of Baildon, continued to alert neighbours and also flagged down a passing ambulance.

Meanwhile, the Fire Service Control Room received a 999 call and a fire engine from Cleckheaton fire station and two from Dewsbury fire station rushed to the scene.

The second occupant, a man who had been in the bedroom of the flat, was led to safety by firefighters in breathing apparatus.

What people said about the rescue

Fire Investigator, Jamie Lister, visited the scene afterwards and believes the most likely cause of the fire was a knocked over candle.

Jamie said: “The two men in the flat were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation but the consequences could have been far worse had it not been for the brave actions of these three men.

“Not only did they manage to gain entry into the complex, they also managed to knock down a very sturdy door, before entering into an acrid environment without the benefit of protective clothing and breathing apparatus our firefighters depend upon.

“Their persistent and determined efforts to rescue people, who were ultimately strangers to them, is truly commendable.”

Since the incident the men have received a card of thanks from the local residents.

thank you card for hero bin men

And this week they were invited to Cleckheaton Fire Station where they were reunited with the crew which attended the fire.

Cleckheaton Fire Station Watch Commander Martin Bleasdale, who was Incident Commander, added:

“Smoke detection in the property was installed, however, the batteries had been removed. The lack of vital early detection could well have cost the occupants their lives.

Whilst we would always advise people not to enter a burning building, the instinctive, brave and clearly determined actions of Kevin, Ian and Lee, before the arrival of crews, are highly commendable. Such selfless actions undoubtedly assisted towards a successful conclusion to the incident.

Members of the public should ensure that they have adequate smoke detection installed and that it is regularly maintained and tested.”

Kevin said: “It’s just something that you instinctively do and you like to think that somebody would do it for your family.

“I had to crawl down because above me was completely smoke logged. I just crawled in and felt the heat and saw the sofa on fire. It was black acrid smoke.

I was struggling to breath. I was shouting for this guy and heard a murmur. I pushed the door open and saw an arm. I just instinctively grabbed it and dragged him round.”

Ian, a 58-year-old dad of two from Batley, added: “I went upstairs a couple of times but with the smoke you could not even see at the top of the stairs. It seemed a long time, it might have just been seconds.”

Lee, a commercial vehicle technician, said he had since reflected on how lucky the occupants were.

He said: “What are the chances? For us to be parked at the traffic lights, for the fire to be at the stage it was, for the ambulance to be where it was.

“It was a success story, a good result.

Cllr Musarrat Khan, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said:

“I would like to say how proud I am of Kevin and Ian.

“They have put their own safety on hold to help others in what were very dangerous circumstances.

“Their actions demonstrate how incredibly hard working and caring our staff are, they serve the public of Kirklees every day without praise but in this instance they really went beyond the call of duty.”

top tips on candle safety

  • Place candles on a heat resistant surface and be especially careful with night lights and tea lights which can get hot enough to melt plastic.
  • Put candles in a proper holder so they don’t fall over and out of reach of children, pets and away from curtains and other fabrics or furniture that could catch fire
  • Make sure there is at least one metre (3 feet) between the candle and any surface above it and that candles are at least 10 centimetres (4 inches) apart.

For more fire safety advice visit where you can also book a FREE Home Fire
Safety Check. Alternatively ring 0800 5874536.


  • Well done young men you should feel very proud,………because you helped save 2 lives.

  • well done guys

  • Well done to those very brave men, in such a dangerous situation. I love to hear successful stories.

  • Simone Arratoonian

    What a lovely story. Also really worrying that the men who helped could have been easily hurt or killed by their actions, and this could have been prevented by taking a few simple steps. It really highlights the need for all of us to keep ourselves safe and well.

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