Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall
30th Anniversary of The King’s Cross Fire

30th Anniversary of The King’s Cross Fire

30th Anniversary of the King’s Cross Fire in London

on 18 November 1987.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and everyone touched by the King’s Cross Fire thirty years ago..

The plaque and flowers shown above, remind us of the 31 people who died when a fire on a wooded escalator engulfed part of one of the busiest station in London on 18 November 1987.

A dropped cigarette is believed to have caused the disaster. At about 1930BST on 18 November 1987, a fire broke out on a wooden escalator and then a fireball engulfed the ticket hall, which filled with smoke.

The smoke could be seen coming out of the station’s street-level entrances as screaming passengers escaped.

Fire Brigade Station Officer Colin Townsley was one of those killed, with many Fire Officers and survivors suffering from the effects of severe burns.

THE UNKNOWN VICTIM

The identity of one of the 31 people who died in the King’s Cross fire remained a mystery for sixteen years. However, In 2003 Mr Alexander Fallon was identified as the ‘unknown victim’ of the fire.

This was only possible because of the commitment and struggle of a band of exceptional individuals. Superintendent John Hennigan of British Transport Police was undaunted in his quest, he was ably supported by DS Ray Turner, a number of world leading forensic experts, professors, and many other investigators and supporters. All of who worked diligently for 16 years years to establish Mr Fallon’s identity.

Our thanks; thoughts and prayers must also go to Father Jim Kennedy, retired parish priest at the Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church, Kings Cross. Father Jim who held a special mass every year, for the unidentified man, who had lost his life in the fire. During the years following his death and prior to his identification the ‘unknown victim’ was respectfully referred to as Michael.

I was honoured to be among the many guests invited by Father Jim Kennedy, one of the most ‘righteous’ men I have had the privilege to know, to the Remembrance Mass for Mr Fallon in the presence of his bereaved family.

I use the term ‘righteous’ in reference to Father Jim, as for me he was the embodiment of the quote by Saint Francis of Assisi.

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible”.

LEGACY

In 1989 The Fire Precautions (Sub-surface Railway Stations) Regulations were introduced.

On 23 November 1989, five days after the King’s Cross Station fire, Smoking was Banned in all London Underground stations, including on the escalators.

Wooden escalators were gradually replaced with metal escalators on the London Underground, after the last wooden escalator at Greenford Tube station was de-commissioned in 2014.

The fire led to improvements in fire fighters’ gear.