BREAKING HAMPSHIRE SOUTHAMPTON

Fire crews across the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire Family have paid tribute to two firefighters who lost their lives in the Shirley Towers fire 11 years ago today

 
Firefighters Alan Bannon and Jim Shears died 11 years ago keeping others safe, Firefighters from stations across Hampshire observed  a minute silence at 11am.
When firefighters deployed to tackle a blaze at the Shirley tower block on the 6th April 2010 no one anticipated the outcome of the loss of two lives. James ‘Jim’ Shears, 35, and Alan Bannon, 38, were killed while trying to tackle the blaze.
The fire went on to shape national fire safety rules and regulations to protect future firefighters lives, but still a sacrifice that should never have happened.
Hampshire fire and rescue said that a commemorative event will be held later after the pandemic to pay respects as the Coronavirus pandemic has restricted any gatherings.
Last years report 10 years on;
“A loss that touched the nation. As we look back 10 years on.
When firefighters deployed to tackle a blaze at the Shirley tower block on the 6th April 2010 no one anticipated the outcome of the loss of two lives. James ‘Jim’ Shears, 35, and Alan Bannon, 38, were killed while trying to tackle the blaze.
As we look back Widow Carla Shears of husband Firefighter Jim Shears has shared what has been a long road to healing.
The fire went on to shape national fire safety rules and regulations to protect future firefighters lives, but still a sacrifice that should never have happened.
Carla has described how that time still remains a blur;
“Everything was just crazy, and I don’t really remember a huge amount of it,” she recalls. “It wasn’t until Alan’s funeral that one of the other wives asked if I had been running recently and I said no, I hadn’t thought about it at all. She suggested maybe I should try it again, to see if it would help.”
Carla had only two weeks before the loss of Jim completed her first marathon with her friend, with the loss of Jim and knowing how much she loved being outdoors she was in need of a release for her grief. She once again decided to put on her running trainers and head out again.
She realised the impact was immediate and some of the pain she was suffering in her loss was lifted for the first time since Jim’s loss, She said “Along with my friends and family, running saved me and saved my sanity. It became my coping mechanism when everything around me felt like it was falling apart.”
One of the first memories after the loss with her two sons Frankie and Ruben was a trip to Harcombe House helped by the Firefighters Charity. Carla said that “The boys were four and five at the time their dad died, “It’s difficult to remember that first visit because everything was still such a whirlwind, but I do remember them being happy. And that helped a lot.”
The Harcombe House served as a sanctuary for her and the family offering both peace and serenity over the years that have followed. The first anniversary after the loss of Jim fell on Easter holidays and Carla did not understandably want to be at home and the Firefighters charity offered her this break back to the Harcombe House the family much needed. Since then the family have annually booked a trip to Devon every year to stay at the Harcombe House.
Carla said;
“I just love it there. I feel so at peace, It’s just perfect for getting away from it all. I always connect it with a place of tranquillity. Plus it’s nice to be able to give something back to the Charity that showed such kindness to us, by fundraising for them every year and holidaying at Harcombe.”
In the autumn after the fire and with fundraising becoming an important part of Carla’s life, she arranged for a large group which also included members from Jims’s station to run the New Forest Half Marathon.
Forming Team Jim no matter the weather with newcomers they taken on the race with Jim’s name on their shirts. Carla said
“It’s very emotional, seeing his name everywhere. They’re so brilliant at the event, they announce us over the tanoy as we come over the finish line and people come up to us to ask about Jim. The first year it was too hard for me to speak, so friends had to answer for me, but now I can talk about it. I like talking about him.”
The couple first met when they attended a University in Reading back in 1995 and shared a hall of residence. They formed a couple in the second year when Jim was 21 and Carla 19. Jim got a Biochemistry degree and got a job in a Lab but would always tell everyone how he dreamed to be a Firefighter. After a failed attempt to join Dorset Fire service Jim decided to apply to Hampshire on a recruitment drive and was accepted, He was over the moon and his family were so proud of him.
Carla said that;
“Not many things gave me comfort in the early days, but knowing he died doing something he loved so much was a comfort.
He died doing something he had always wanted to do. He loved the lads and his whole fire family. But he never brought his work home with him. With us he was Jim the dad, who loved judo, spending time with his kids and being together as a family.
He made the most of his shift pattern to be a really hands-on dad. He did as many of the school runs as me and knew all our sons’ friends and their parents. He got involved with the school, going along as a parent helper on school trips and giving talks on fire safety. He doted on his brothers’ children as well as our own.”
Carla struggled over the couple of years following Jim’s death and struggled with the lead up to the inquest which would give an insight into what actually went wrong.
Carla said that; “When it was over, it was a real turning point for me. After the inquest was finished, as horrific as that night was, I could piece together what happened, so was able to process it and then move forwards with my life. And during that time, running saved me.”
Carla has raised tens of thousands of pounds in Jim’s name for the Firefighters charity who supports so many who are in the Fire service.
With 10 years on and the loss still raw to so many, Carla said;
“I hope he is proud of me, I like to think he is.”
Both the loss of Jim Shears and Alan Bannock will never be forgotten. There is not one firefighter who has not heard of the heroic story behind the tragedy. Every firefighter who wakes up and puts on that uniform makes a sacrifice that can never be under estimated.
You will never be forgotten Jim and Alan. Continue to watch over our earthly heroes as you both and so many others fly high.