Lightfoot Street Fire: Justice In Flames

Many thanks to dpack and gw.


Sir Ronald Waterhouse



Lost in Care Report

Eighteen families were left homeless after a fire at a warehouse engulfed their houses. Eight people were taken to hospital and more than 100 residents of Lightfoot Road, Chester, were evacuated as the blaze destroyed a Pickfords storage depot on the neighbouring Hoole Bridge industrial estate.

“The houses spontaneously combusted because of the intense heat,” said a Cheshire Fire Service spokeswoman.

The Independent

On 24th October 1996, one of Chester’s worst fires ever engulfed Pickford’s storage warehouse and led to the destruction of much of Lightfoot Street. Pickford’s was never rebuilt and the site is presently occupied by a development of flats named Thomas Brassey Close after the railway engineer.

The fire seems to have started around midnight, and many local residents at first thought that the bangs and pops as the roof of the warehouse caught fire were fireworks. Shortly thereafter, the bangs became louder and more frequent at least one resident thought that a local newsagent (who sold fireworks) must be on fire. However it soon became clear that the fire was at Pickfords and many residents telephoned the local emergency services. Thanks to their prompt action no-one was badly hurt.

Pickford’s warehouse was a large storage facility and was packed with furniture and other inflammable materials. No-one is quite sure how the fire started and the newspapers of the time carried speculation about causes ranging from electrical faults to arson. The fire quickly became was well established and may at its peak have achieved significant but localised firestorm effects. The heat of the fire was so great that at least 18 dwellings on the opposite side of Lightfoot Street were set alight and many others were badly damaged. Fortunately, many of the residents were able to escape to the rear of their properties (or be rescued that way) and the licensee of a local pub (the Beehive) opened her doors to provide shelter to the victims. At least 20 appliances attended the fire.

The following morning, as the Fire Brigade were damping down the last small fires, the full scale of the devastation was apparent to anyone travelling through Chester Station. Pickford’s warehouse was gone, and Lightfoot Street looked like something out of the Blitz. Everything was black and grey with the only splash of colour being a burned out removal van still bearing the words ‘Pickford’s The Careful Movers’.




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6 responses to “Lightfoot Street Fire: Justice In Flames

  1. dpack

    the loss adjuster’s records and reports might be interesting .
    the company records and reports might be interesting.
    the fire brigade reports and conclusions might be interesting.
    the police reports might be interesting.
    im not sure that after a blaze like that there would be much forensic evidence left to assess but any reports about that etc might be interesting.

    a new expert report based on what can be established about the contents , the layout and the subsequent nature of the fire might be interesting.

    this sort of thing does seem to be quite rare .

  2. Sabre

    The extent of the fire is in and of itself forensic evidence. Houses opposite caught fire due to the intensity of the radiant heat !

  3. dpack

    having had a chat with somebody who has experience of insurance claims my feeling that storage facilities are organised so as they dont (often) catch fire and if they do they can be put out with only partial losses appears to be correct .

    unless the inventory lists included an unusual amount of very flammable stuff and it was stored very badly and the arrangement of the building allowed a good air flow once that was alight from some cause and that then led to a 16 appliance shout quite rapidly after the locals noticing “pops”and fire seems a bit odd to say the least .

    the “pops” the news reports mention the locals hearing could be a variety of things as fires make lots of noises or they could be related to how fast and how intense the fire was .

    i recon the loss of the paperwork justifies a very close look at the circumstances of this fire .

  4. artmanjosephgrech

    Before 1971 the majority of Children’s Departments understood the critical importance of keeping accurate records and keeping them secure. The situation changed with the formation of Social Services Departments. However there were sinister disappearances as emerged in the Gates Family Inquiry which significantly contributed to the situation in which a toddler died from her burns and when the original ” crime” was compounded by the failure of the authority to adequately recreate the file from available resources. I am puzzled by the issue you raise because all the agencies send children to any establishment will have records even if the records of the establishment are destroyed. The records for individual establishments are significant in terms of day dairies, staff rostas as well as the individual records on individual children, punishment/incident books all which could be crucial in proving that a particular officer was on duty on the day and me when a reported event occurred, especially if it was witnessed

  5. dpack

    at least one relevant set of records are sealed under a 100 yr order for somebody sent to north wales from another area due to events in the place they were sent from.
    one problem of these records being destroyed is that witnesses have had to “prove”they were there at the time as well as make statements about the events ,dates ,persons etc they witnessed ,another is difficult to cross check any statement if the documentation and other potential witnesses are also”unrecorded”.

  6. dpack

    having had a quick look at rules and regs for storage warehouses the basic ones were in place at the relevant time.

    possible the most relevant ones are:
    gas cylinders aerosols paint ,fuel(lawnmowers etc to be drained) fireworks ammunition or similar dangeroos stuff are not to be included in loads to be stored.
    all warehouses needed safe electrics,proper doors,fire safety inspections,fuel for vehicles etc had to be outside in secure storage .

    it seems pickfords require each customer to insure their goods so there might have been a lot of separate claims for losses to customers own insurance companies which might mean there is a better chance of fire officer’s reports etc still existing somewhere even if the originals are “missing”for any reason.

    i know furniture foam can burn quite well but by the 1990’s most that was worth storing would have been the harder to burn stuff and unless it is shredded out of the fabric covers fairly flame proof .