Author Topic: Woolworths Fire  (Read 38299 times)

cheethamgirl

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #15 on: 20:37:41, 28/12/10 »
No, I didn't hang around for the press.  There were others with much sadder tales to tell, and I moved the Pakistan the following week.  Some years later, I was involved in another fire (I'm not an arsonist, by the way) which was much worse.  I was a first aider and had to give evidence at a coroner's court.  I'm now a bit paranoid about fire and fire arrangements.  I won't enter a store or large building without first clocking where the extinguishers and fire exits are, and if an alarm bell rings, you won't see me for dust. That photo took me back though, and took me aback too.  The window I recall the rescue being from was to the left, out of shot.  It was a huge corner window, with a rounded glass pane, a magnificent, Victorian window with the original handblown glass.  I don't suppose they ever replaced it with anything as good.
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celeste

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #16 on: 22:50:27, 28/12/10 »
Is it the corner where the Amusement & slot machines are now?
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cheethamgirl

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #17 on: 06:36:26, 29/12/10 »
I don't know Celeste. I no longer live in Manchester so I'm not sure what is there now.  If you stand looking at what was Woollies, with your back to Piccadilly Gardens and look up to the first or maybe second floor, on the left hand corner of the block was a truly beautiful window - stone surround, large window sill and that lovely, large curved glass pane. It must have been a custom made pane.  The building was one of the many lovely ones constructed in Manchester's Cottonopolis days. One that the Luftwaffe didn't turn into a crater in 1941.
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blusal

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #18 on: 08:43:16, 11/03/11 »
I remember that terrible day, I was working in Bradley records in the Arndale centre when the news came through, it was very sad
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dan_costello

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #19 on: 19:45:12, 17/04/11 »
Woolworths never returned to Manchester, either. They had a small shop in the Arndale Centre (early 90s at least) - which sold CDs and videos.

grinchy

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #20 on: 23:25:21, 17/04/11 »
Hi, just wondering does anybody know what conditions were like in store that very sad day?

cheethamgirl

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #21 on: 07:31:01, 18/04/11 »
Presumably you mean after the fire?  It had beena typical Saurday (fairly sure it was a Saturday) so lots of people in the store. No sign of the conflagration could be seen from the ground floor when I was leaving, just people running down the escalator, screaming.  I understand that upstairs on the furniture floor was the most awful black, acrid smoke.  I don't remember if they found the cause of the spark, but something had ignited the foam filled furniture which burned quickly and gave out huge amounts of choking smoke.  I saw no flames as such.  This incident led to a change in the law on flame retardant furniture.  I'll never forget the terrified faces of those people who were out on the window ledge, unable to breathe as the dense black smoke poured out from behind them and enveloped them. They had to climb right out onto the ledge and sidle along away from the open window in order to breathe, and it seemed to take an age to get the turntable ladder up to them.  Everyone watching was praying and many were in tears.  I'll also never forget the shocked face of the very young constable who was standing near me, trying to keep the crowds back.   None of us had any idea that there were women trapped in the wages room at the back of the building, and that they were dying.  The windows were barred and the pour souls couldn't get out. All the fire fighters were at the front, in Piccadilly, fighting the blaze from there.
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grinchy

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #22 on: 18:42:38, 18/04/11 »
I was only 9 yrs old at that time but sounds pritty awful to me.   Many thanks Cheethamgirl.
 
 
 
 
 

Jamie

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #23 on: 22:27:42, 15/05/11 »
This was a seriously dreadful day in Manchester's history. However, it did indeed help to get the laws changed on foams used in furniture, as well as various fire safety laws.

It was a day I recall pretty clearly, except for one thing. I can't remember the date! I'm feel it was either May 4th, or the 9th, 1979. The reason I remember this is a simple and clear one... it was the day I passed my driving test. I'm sorry, Cheethamgirl, but I think it was a Tuesday! Why? Because in those days, driving test centre's only worked on weekdays. (I assume they still do???) Also, as I worked in a shop in the City centre then, I had to book a days' annual leave for my test. My test was taken from what was the old test centre at Strangeways and, as I left the centre with the examiner to commence the test, one of his colleagues said to him "Have you heard the news? Woollies is on fire!"

As mentioned, I passed my driving test that day and, after returning home and managing to get my feet back on the ground, I phoned my work-mates to advise them of my success. Most of the team didn't work at weekends.

Anyway, I hope this helps to stir peoples memories to that fateful day. I remember watching it on the news that evening, and later, being appalled that such a big business had been allowed to get away with such awful, archaic measures which prevented people from escaping! And they effectively got away with it! However, fortunately, some lessons were learned.

cheethamgirl

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #24 on: 06:12:50, 16/05/11 »
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woolworths_Group
 
You're right Jamie.  According to several sources, including the above wikipedia article (scroll down to 'disasters') , the fire broke out at 1pm on 8th May 1979 and I checked on the calendar and that was indeed a Tuesday.  I was a shiftworker back then and had days off during the week mostly, but Piccadilly was packed with shoppers, as it was most lunchtimes in those days, which is probably why I thought it was a Saturday.  The wikipedia page suggests 9 shoppers and only 1 member of staff perished, but I had thought several members of staff had died, trapped in the wages office.  It seems the unfortunate customers had refused to be evacuated, some because they had just purchased their lunch in the cafeteria and others died still queueing at an abandoned check out.   
 
 
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badharp

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #25 on: 15:20:09, 27/10/11 »
I was one of the fire men from London Road who attended that day and was on the 35' ladder around the back trying to get the staff out of the windows.

cheethamgirl

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #26 on: 08:34:20, 28/10/11 »
Poor, brave you Badharp.  Did you manage to get any of them out, or did they, as my memory suggests, perish in the fire?  I have never understood why we do not pay firemen even a fraction of what they are worth.
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badharp

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #27 on: 16:33:03, 31/10/11 »
We actually got 4 people alive out of the window I was at although they all needed air due to the smoke, spent all day that day and the next day there. Very messy business inside once we managed to start cleaning up. I would hope that there would be nothing like that again but unfortunately  in a short space of time we had two other really bad fires with large loss of life, Mother Macks Pub and China Lane sewing factory, all within a few hundred yards of each other.

cheethamgirl

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #28 on: 06:59:37, 01/11/11 »
So terribly sad.  Fire is a ruthless killer.  Having been involved in a major fire myself, in which someone died, then finding myself a witness in a coroner's court, I have a morbid fear of fire (or perhaps it's a healthy respect?).  A former work colleague of mine was also a retained fireman and he helped me talk through the trauma.  He used to tell us funny stories of the lady who called the firestation to say her kitchen was on fire and was told "keep it going till we get there, missus!", and the drunk whose car engine burst into flames on his drunken drive home from the pub, so he lifted the bonnet and peed on the conflagration, not realising that electricity from car battery) arcs in water ...!!   I thimk they call it 'gallows humour' but it must stop one going barmy.   
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MARY 7

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Re: Woolworths Fire
« Reply #29 on: 10:13:17, 02/11/11 »
i worked woolworths at one time left long before the fire.