18 November

18 November 2013

…. The King’s Cross fire broke out on 18 November 1987 at approximately 19:30 at King’s Cross St. Pancras tube station, a major interchange on the London Underground. The fire killed thirty-one people.

At about 19:30, several passengers reported seeing a fire on a Piccadilly line escalator. The fire was beneath the escalator making it impossible to put out with a fire extinguisher. The decision to evacuate the station was made at 19:39, using the Victoria line escalators and a few minutes later, the fire brigade arrived with several firemen going down to the escalator to assess the fire. They saw a fire about the size of a large cardboard box and initially, the plan was to fight it with a water jet using men with breathing apparatus.

Flashover occurred at 19:45 and a jet of flames came from the escalator shaft, filling the ticket hall with intense heat and thick black smoke, killing or seriously injuring most of the people in the ticket hall. Several hundred people were trapped below ground with some escaping on trains on other underground lines.

In total, thirty fire crews including over 150 firefighters were deployed with the fire finally being declared as extinguished at 01:46 the following morning.

Thirty-one people died and 100 people were taken to hospital, nineteen with serious injuries. One of those who lost their life in the fire was the Fire Brigade station officer Colin Townsley. The first to arrive at the scene, he spotted a passenger in difficulty in the ticket hall and stopped to help her, just as the flashover occurred.

On 22 January 2004, a previously unidentified man, known as ‘Michael’ or ‘Body 115’ after its mortuary tag, was eventually identified using forensic evidence. This confirmed that he was 73-year-old Alexander Fallon of Falkirk, Scotland.

The BBC ‘On This Day’ website provides further details of the incident…

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