A veteran firefighter has been awarded a £50,000 pay-out after he collapsed with dehydration – because he was denied drinking WATER while tackling a blaze.
David Neicho was rushed to hospital after tackling a massive flat fire with 40 colleagues for three hours on a hot summer evening.
Despite being surrounded by water there was none to drink because all the hydrants were being used to douse the flames.
But managers refused to dispatch a relief team to fetch bottled water – causing David, 50, to collapse.
He sued London Fire Brigade which has now settled out of court for £47,500 after a three-year legal battle.
“After fighting the fire for three hours, we were all exhausted and drenched in sweat,” he said.
“I began seeing double and feeling really faint and dizzy. The paramedics on the scene put me on an IV drip straight away and rushed me to hospital.
“I was suffering severe dehydration, which could have been easily solved if we’d been allowed some water.
“I never want another firefighter to suffer from dehydration as a result of barmy rules about bottled water.
“I hope they learn from this lesson and the rules change. £47,500 is a lot to pay for a bottle of water.”
David worked on one of six engines that were called to a blaze in a three-storey block of flats in Gants Hill, Ilford, in August 2011.
Protocol dictates that in all but the most exceptional circumstances, fire crews attending a blaze should install a water filter on a hydrant so they have access to drinking water.
But during that fire, the closest three hydrants were being used and all other hydrants were too far away, leaving the firemen with just the water in their canteens and trucks.
David, who has been in the fire service for 28 years, said a request was made for a Fire Service Support Team to bring in bottled water.
This was refused by the officer in charge of the operation – but the firefighters were not informed of this and battled on expecting it to arrive.
After collapsing David was admitted to King George’s Hospital in Ilford at around 1:30am.
He was treated for severe dehydration and given an IV drip, before being allowed home around seven hours later.
He was ordered by doctors to stay in bed and keep drinking plenty of water for the following 48 hours.
David, who is planning on retiring in 18 months, said: “Our firefighting gear makes us extremely hot and sweaty – especially when the weather is warm.
“It was an extremely hot night. During that fire, I probably had about a litre-and-a-half of water from my canteen.
“I reckon under normal circumstances I’d have drunk at least ten litres, if I could.
“That fire was quite clearly exceptional.
“There were people jumping out of second floor windows trying to escape the blaze, and once we’d gone in and determined there were no people trapped inside, we had homes and commercial premises to protect.
“There simply wasn’t any time to go off on a 20-minute round trip to get a drink of water.”
Father-of-one David, from Romford, Essex, believes the request for water was denied to save money.
“We had a job to do, and I feel we were let down because penny-pinching measures stopped a Fire Support unit from travelling just six miles to the scene,” he added.
London Fire Brigade carried out an internal investigation into the fire, but the report stated it was ‘inconclusive’ why the firemen did not have access to enough water.
The brigade settled the civil legal case just days before it was due in court, paying him £7,500 compensation and covering his £40,000 legal fees.
Dia Chakravarty, Political Director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The authorities have a responsibility to provide firefighters with everything necessary to carry out their jobs without wasting taxpayers’ money on entirely avoidable compensation claims.
“The authorities have failed on both counts here and as usual, hard-pressed families are picking up the bill. This culture of waste in the public sector has got to stop.”
A spokeswoman for London Fire Brigade said: “We took a commercial decision to settle this matter out of court.
“It would not be appropriate to comment.”
David, who lives with his partner Janine Michelotti, 44, and their seven-year-old son Jack Neicho, has now returned to work but will be performing only light duties until his retirement following an eye operation earlier this month.
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