Sheriff hits out at farmer and council

The tangled wreckage of the caravan at Birkhill Farm was all that remained after the fire that claimed the life of Petr Adamik.
The tangled wreckage of the caravan at Birkhill Farm was all that remained after the fire that claimed the life of Petr Adamik.

Birkhill farmer Frank Hendry has been criticised by Sheriff Fiona Tait in her determination into the death of farm worker Petr Adamik.

He died in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, from smoke inhalation and burns following a caravan fire at the farm at Marywell on April 2, 2007.

The cause of the outbreak was electrical, originating in an outside refrigerator.

Following a fatal accident inquiry, the Sheriff said Hendry had failed to discharge his duty to apply for and obtain a caravan site licence in terms of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

She also said that there were clear defects in Angus Council environmental health department’s interaction with Mr Hendry in terms of the opportunity to have a site licence put in place.

She said that defects also existed in respect of Angus Council planning department’s failure to continue to work with Mr Hendry to reduce the number of caravans on the site to an acceptable level in late 2005 and to ensure that planning consent was applied for.

She rejected any criticism of Tayside Fire and Rescue’s policy that any calls to a local fire station were to be redirected immediately to Fire Control stating: “The policy strikes me as clear, well understood and operationally necessary to ensure deployment of appropriate appliances to an incident and a co-ordinated response with other emergency services.”

She went on: “The criticism of a predetermined attendance of one fire appliance to a caravan fire has some merit. I understood the evidence of the firefighters to be that the specific predetermined attendance had been recently implemented. I have referred to the fact that caravans represent diverse situations and challenges. As illustrated by the Birkhill Farm fire, the reported ‘fire in a caravan’ did not forewarn of the conflagration which was encountered.”