Fire service accused of 'failing' tragic teenager Jessica Blake after she set her bedroom alight
THE FIRE service has been accused of "failing" troubled teenager Jess Blake in the months leading up to her death.
Jess, 14, took her own life in woods on the outskirts of Beverley after going missing from her home in August.
In March, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service was called to Jess's house when she set her bedroom alight. Realising something was wrong, the attending crew manager filed a PN1 form, an internal document used when officers come into contact with a child they believe might be vulnerable.
However, his concerns were not shared with health professionals or social services.
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A spokesman said the service confirmed it would carry out an internal review but was "confident it followed its standard procedures".
However, an experienced senior officer said: "Here you've got a firefighter who realised there was something wrong, did something about it and nothing got done.
"It was picked up and put into the system and nothing happened.
"There's a massive communication problem and it's strangling the living daylights out of the fire service."
Jess first came to the attention of social workers in October last year after she accused her dad of hitting her.
An investigation showed her claims were completely untrue.
Soon afterwards Jess began to self-harm and, on November 23 last year, she was referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
Meetings continued until February 29, when Jess and her mum both felt things had improved and she was discharged. However, days later, on March 9, she set her bedroom on fire.
Shaun Harrison, the crew manager who attended the blaze, was concerned for her safety and passed on his worries.
Jess was involved in a juvenile fire-setters intervention programme run by the service.
But other agencies were not informed after Mr Harrison's concerns were not passed on.
Firefighters are given short safeguarding presentations on how to identify children who might be at risk. But the senior officer, who asked the Mail to protect his identity, said the service had not invested enough time in the training.
He said: "We had half-hour lectures on it. You can't do that.
"It's not long enough when you're delivering it to ten or more people who don't understand. There's nobody with an overarching view. People are missing stuff. It doesn't work, it's failing."
The officer argued any changes to a firefighter's role, such as expecting them to identify children at risk, must be properly thought out.
He said: "The fire service has to evolve and nobody's got any problem with that. We're all happy to evolve if the training is given properly.
"If we're going to take these things on, we need the correct training, not half an hour on a wet afternoon."
He would like to see the matter promptly and fully investigated and feels the fire service has a responsibility to the public to set things right.
He said: "There should definitely be a massive internal fire brigade inquiry and it should be done independently.
"At the end of the day, it came down to somebody's life.
"We're a service which you contribute to with your council tax, so we're accountable. If we're not coming up to the mark, we need to be taken to task."
A fire service spokesman said: "Humberside Fire and Rescue Service has a strong track record in safeguarding and takes such matters extremely seriously.
"In any case, a professional judgment is exercised by an experienced officer.
"In this case, the service ensured that a juvenile fire-setters intervention was carried out with Jessica on March 23."
A Serious Case Review into Jess's death is being carried out by East Riding Safeguarding Children Board to see if any lessons can be learnt.
The spokesman said: "Naturally, there will be an internal review but the service is confident that it followed its standard procedures. At this stage, given that a Serious Case Review into the circumstances surrounding Jessica Blake's death is planned, involving a number of other key organisations, it would not be appropriate to comment further."