30 years ago, on 27 December 1992 at 6:39pm fire crews were called to the Hampton Court Hotel at Kings Cross on Bayswater Road. The hotel had caught alight, beginning on the ground floor and was first noticed by staff working in the foyer office. The fire raged through the ground and first floor affecting the nightclub and bar present, with smoke damage affecting the upper residential levels of the hotel.
The flames reached intense temperatures making it difficult for firefighters to extinguish the flames. This was due to the basement level of the hotel providing a burst of oxygen exacerbating the fire to extremities. All firefighters regardless of whether they were involved in search and rescue or fire suppression, were ordered to wear CABA (compressed air breathing apparatus).
When Redfern fire station arrived with their vehicles, they were orientated towards to rear of the hotel. They noticed when they began contributing to the fire suppression efforts that the water they supplied was coming out the other side of the building at near boiling and could be felt by the firefighters through their boots.
Over 50 firefighters from over 8 stations were involved. With a total of 16 fire appliances on site to assist. Fire brigades completed fire suppression and search and rescue efforts simultaneously due to the volatile nature of the fire. Several members of the public were subsequently trapped inside the 7-storey hotel which resulted in over 40 people being rescued by fire crews using ladders and hydraulic platforms to reach those trapped in the upper residential levels.
4 individuals were taken to Prince Henry hospital for smoke inhalation as well as a firefighter due to the same reason. Senior Firefighter D. Healey from Woollahra Fire Station was a part of the rescue efforts, and whilst wearing his CABA, the warning device on his gear went off to signal that he had ran out of oxygen. In his efforts to escape through the nearest fire exit, he ran into complications and could not evacuate through his planned escape route. Luckily his search and rescue partner was by his side and was able to share his oxygen supply with SF/F Healey and evacuate to safety.
The issue of fire doors being locked, and alarm detectors not being activated was reported by fire crews after the incident which incidentally saw an investigation take place by the council on the establishment. This was also not the first fire the hotel had faced, with a previous fire breaking out only 18 months prior upon the top floor. This earlier fire was determined to be arson, yet no one was charged with the crime. The reports of poor fire safety management and the multiple fires occurring in a short period of time caught the attention of South Sydney Council which sought to temporarily close down the Hampton Court Hotel until it complied with fire safety regulations.
Despite the complications faced by fire crews, the success of their fire suppression efforts and search and rescue operations was linked to the ‘greater alarm response’ which was a new response method implemented by the fire brigade. The greater alarm response means that there is a significant number of firefighters and fire engines called to an incident meaning that a commander on scene has ample resources at their disposal in a matter of minutes to effectively manage a fire. Prior to this system fire units were called onto the fireground on an incremental basis.
-Story written by the Curator