An investigation into a warehouse blaze which claimed the lives of four firefighters has found officers were not given enough information before attending the scene, it was revealed yesterday.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE), has issued an improvement notice to Warwickshire Fire & Rescue Service following the fire at the vegetable-packing plant in Atherstone on Stour on November 2.
Speaking at a press conference, Alan Craddock, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands, said: "As a result of our work on this investigation, HSE has formed the opinion, based on the evidence we have seen, that the current arrangements employed by the authority do not comply with the statutory duties to provide its firefighters with all the information they should have to assist them in making the appropriate decisions when attending a fire."
Firefighters Ashley Stephens, 20, Darren Yates-Badley, 24, John Averis, 27 and Ian Reid, 44, died when attempting to tackle the blaze.
Mr Craddock said the fire service had four months to improve their arrangements for providing information on aspects such as locality of the incident, particular hazards of the buildings involved and where a water supply can be found.
"Our investigation is not just looking at the incident in Atherstone on Stour, it is looking at the wider arrangements," he explained.
"We are not happy with current wider arrangements on their provision of information given to crews attending fires at certain premises."
He added: "We therefore today issued an improvement notice requiring the authority to make the appropriate arrangements to gather and take action in response to information about special risks which may be present at premises where firefighters may have to deal with emergencies."
He said the service should make an action plan for the inspection of premises which gives priority to higher risk buildings.
The fire service could appeal against the notice within the next 21 days, he said.
Mr Craddock told reporters that the HSE had contacted Sir Ken Knight, the Government's chief fire and rescue advisor, who had issued an alert to all fire services to remind them of their "legal obligations" of making sure information is easily accessible to crews when attending an incident.
The police investigation into the blaze is now in its 11th week.
Detective Superintendent Ken Lawrence of Warwickshire Police said forensic experts were preparing to enter the building for the first time.
"We are approaching the part of the building where the firefighters were recovered," he said.
So far, 30 tonnes of debris has been removed from the building for examination and a further 230 tonnes has yet to be recovered.
Mr Lawrence said it was now safe for forensic officers to enter, but added that they might have to work in metal cage-like frameworks.
"We can carefully sift and recover whatever is in the building that may assist us in our investigation," he said.
Mr Lawrence admitted that this may take slightly longer than expected, meaning the officers would be at the site until the middle of March.