London Firefighter wins £7,500 after being denied drinking water
The incident occurred on August 2011, where David Neicho, aged 50, was in one of six fire engines dispatched to fight a three storey flat fire.
David had been fighting the fire with 40 colleagues for 3 hours when he collapsed with dehydration and was taken to hospital.
In almost all circumstances, it is standard protocol for a water filter to be fitted on one of the hydrants so that it can be used to provide firefighters with drinking water.
At the time, however, the three nearest fire hydrants were being used to fight the fire, all of fire hydrants were too far away, and the water supplies in the canteens and trucks had been exhausted.
On SWNS, David states:
“Our firefighting gear makes us extremely hot and sweaty – especially when the weather is warm.
“It was an extremely hot night. During that fire, I probably had about a litre and a half of water from my canteen.
“I reckon under normal circumstances I’d have drunk at least ten litres, if I could.
“That fire was quite clearly exceptional.
“There were people jumping out of second floor windows trying to escape the blaze, and once we’d gone in and determined there were no people trapped inside, we had homes and commercial premises to protect.
“There simply wasn’t any time to go off on a 20 minute round trip to get a drink of water.”
When it was requested of them, The Fire Service Support team refused to dispatch a relief team to fetch bottled water.
Those fighting the fire were unaware of the refusal, and continued tackling the blaze. Eventually, Neicho, who had been fighting fires for 28 years, collapsed with dehydration while waiting for water that was never to arrive.
After a lengthy 3 year legal battle, the matter was settled outside of court, and David was awarded £7,500 compensation and a further £40,000 to cover legal fees.
Neicho has returned to work, but is only performing light duties while he prepares for retirement.
London Fire Brigade carried out an internal investigation into the fire, but the report stated it was ‘inconclusive’ why the firemen did not have access to enough water.
David offers his own explanation, that “penny-pinching measures stopped a Fire Support unit from travelling just six miles to the scene… I hope they learn from this lesson and the rules change. £47,500 is a lot to pay for a bottle of water.”