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18 November 2009

On this day in history: King`s Cross Fire, 1987

On 18th November 1987 at around 7.30pm a fire was discovered in a machine room at King's Cross St Pancras underground station. The machine room was beneath an escalator that connected the Piccadilly line with the mainline station. Subsequent investigations concluded that a discarded match on the escalator was the most likely cause of the fire.

Even though the evening rush hour was coming to an end, hundreds of commuters were still in the station, the busiest on London's Underground network. Initially there was little concern as the fire appeared to be small, producing little smoke. Unfortunately, the fire soon spread over the partly-wooden escalator before a flashover engulfed the ticket office in flames and smoke, trapping many passengers underground.

By that time, the first fire-fighters had arrived including London Fire Brigade Station Officer Colin Townsley, who was on the concourse when the flashover occurred, while he stopped to help a woman who was struggling to exit the station. Townsley was one of the thirty-one fatalities caused by the fire, most of who had been caught in the ticket hall during the flashover. Fourteen ambulances were used to take the sixty-plus people who received injuries as a result of the fire to various London hospitals.

150 fire fighters battled the blaze until it was declared extinguished at 1.46 the next morning. Nevertheless, emergency crews remained at the scene until the following evening. A number of bodies were recovered from the station, including one that was not identified until 2004 as a 73-year-old homeless man from Falkirk, Scotland, called Alexander Fallon.

ITN news footage of the disaster

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