St Helier explosion: ‘If there was any hint of danger firefighters would not have left the scene…’
A retired firefighter with more than three decades of experience said the service would only leave the site of a suspected gas leak if they were sure it was safe.
Mick Stevens, who is also a former volunteer police officer, said he was pleased that the head of gas utility Islands Energy Group had clarified that an engineer had been called to Haut du Mont by the fire brigade on Friday night to carry out maintenance according to standard procedures.
Jo Cox confirmed this week that IEG engineers were called on Friday night when fire and ambulance services were contacted by residents after smelling gas.
Mr Stevens said: “I estimate that I have been retired for 20 years but it has always been standard practice in any incident where gas is smelled and there is a suspected leak that the gas company would be called and both services would attend.
“If there were signs of danger, none of the fire brigade would have left the site. In my 34 years of service, we have never left an area until we have been assured it is safe.
“In my experience, the gas company had the special detection equipment to track the gas and assess the level, and the fire department was there to make sure.
“It has always been the case that once the gas company deemed the area safe, subject to all proper testing, the incident was turned over to them.” He added: “I have attended many suspected gas leaks and it is important to say that gas can become undetectable very quickly. It blows in and out in a matter of seconds and can therefore be difficult to spot.’
Ms Cox confirmed that the three-storey block of flats was not connected to the gas supply but had a “mains running past it”.
Andium Homes, which operates the apartments, confirmed yesterday that it ordered Islands Energy in September to disconnect the redundant power supply that previously powered the building from its main grid.
It is not clear if this work had started.
Mr Stevens stressed that he could only speak as a former firefighter, but it was important to say that the service followed well-established policies and procedures.
Meanwhile, Jersey Fire Chief Paul Brown said those involved in the search and recovery operation would not stop until each person who lost their life “receives the dignity and care they deserve”.
He also confirmed that specialist firefighters, paramedics and other personnel searching the site of the Pier Road blast were on 12-hour rotations and their well-being is a key priority.
Special teams who flew in from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight on Saturday would remain on the island “as long as necessary” and there were no plans for the units to reduce their contribution, he added.