Firefighters Funeral

A guard of honour made up of hundreds of firefighters and members of the public lined the streets in Dorset for the funeral of the second of two firefighters who died battling a blaze in a residential tower block.

James Shears, 35, from Poole, died tackling the fire at Shirley Towers in Southampton, Hampshire, on April 6. Hundreds of colleagues also lined the streets of Southampton on Tuesday for the funeral of Alan Bannon, 38, who died in the same incident.

A memorial service is planned for both firefighters at Winchester Cathedral in July. The coffin was carried to St George's Church in Poole by a turntable ladder fire appliance adorned with flowers followed by members of Red Watch from St Mary's Fire Station, Southampton, on foot and a second fire engine. The Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service standard was draped over the coffin with Mr Shears' helmet on top. Members of the public were asked to wear colourful clothing to help celebrate his life. They stood in a respectful silence as the coffin was carried by six pallbearers into the church.

Reports have said the firefighters were found unconscious by paramedics on the ninth floor of the block and one died at the scene and one in hospital. A joint fire service and police investigation is continuing to find out what caused the fire in flat 72 and how the experienced men, from Red Watch based at St Mary's Fire Station, died.

Mr Shears, known as Jim and who also had the nickname of Britney, lived in Poole with his wife Carla and two sons, Ruben aged four, and Frankie, five. He also lived near his parents, Marilyn and Ed, and brothers, Gary, Steven and Chas. He joined Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service in 2003.

Music during the service included Stop Crying Your Heart Out and All Around The World by Oasis, Simply The Best by Tina Turner, Hit Me Baby One More Time by Britney Spears and The Wonder Of You by Elvis Presley. A tribute read on behalf of Ed Shears, the father of Mr Shears, talked of his pride for his son who was a keen judo fighter. He said: "He did everything I could not and became a true hero. I don't want to portray our Jim as some sort of saint, he was just an ordinary person like all of us. I'm just very proud he was my son.''

Mr Shears' brother Gary said as he fought back tears: "As well as being the best brother, father, son and husband, he was the best at most things. He was the best at judo, best at making people laugh, best role model a younger brother could have. It's true, Jim, you were simply the best.''

Chief fire officer John Bonney said: "Jim was not a proud man but he was very proud of his job. He liked the fact he helped to protect others. Over 40 people were rescued that night because of Jim and Alan and the others who fought that fire. They bought precious time for the rescue of others but in buying that time Jim and Alan paid a terrible price.''

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