‘We’ll never forget brave firefighter Fleur’

The ceremony around the memorial to Fleur Lombard on February 4

STAPLE Hill residents and shop workers joined firefighters past and present to remember Fleur Lombard, who died in the line of duty.

Fleur, who was 21, lost her life while fighting a blaze at the Leo’s supermarket in Broad Street, which stood on the site now occupied by Tesco, and was set alight by an arsonist on February 4, 1996.

She was caught in a flashover, where all the exposed flammable material suddenly ignited inside the building, and died as a result of the intense heat.

Fleur became the only female firefighter to die on duty in peacetime Britain and was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal and Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation, in recognition of her bravery.

Every year on February 4, serving and retired firefighters gather by the memorial to Fleur, which stands on the opposite side of the road to the Tesco store, to remember her.

This year the event fell on a Saturday, and around 70 people stood on both sides of the road during the short ceremony, with residents and Tesco staff paying their respects as well as fire service and union representatives.

Fleur’s family was represented by retired Chief Fire Officer John Terry OBE, who thanked the people of Staple Hill and Kingswood for continuing to remember her.

Both John and current Chief Fire Officer Simon Shilton, who also spoke at the ceremony, were also on duty and called to help tackle the fire which claimed Fleur’s life.

John, who was in charge of the response to the fire on the day, said: “To be involved in such an event is the most horrendous thing that can happen to a firefighter.

“It’s great that people still remember Fleur and come here every year.”

Simon said: “Fire does not discriminate, just as we do not distinguish when we answer the call to duty.

“Today, the tragic loss of Fleur is still felt keenly both within the fire and rescue service family and wider community.

“We come together each year to mark her anniversary, pay tribute to her service and ensure that her bravery lives on in each of our memories.”

Group manager Matt Osbourne and Station Manager Sean Heighton also spoke at the ceremony, which included an impeccably-observed minute’s silence.

Also on February 4 this year staff across Avon Fire & Rescue Service held a fitness workout, with exercises geared towards firefighter fitness and strength tests, in Fleur’s memory.

She is also remembered with a bursary fund set up to encourage fire service staff to travel and learn about the work of other fire services in the UK, in Europe, or worldwide.