Questions for fire chief who faced tough start in top job

BRIAN Sweeney was less than three months into the job as Strathclyde’s firemaster when he was faced with the most horrific test, as an explosion ripped through the Stockline plastics factory in Maryhill, Glasgow.

For three days, in May 2004, he was the face of the rescue attempt.

His reassuring voice and utter optimism provided hope that survivors would be pulled from the rubble.

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Nine people were killed, and more than 40 injured.

More than 300 firefighters, medics and police joined the 72-hour search for survivors.

Mr Sweeney, who had worked his way through the ranks after joining the fire service as a raw recruit in 1981, was widely praised for remaining dignified in the face of defeat and fiercely proud of the men and women who refused to give up.

The man from Donegal was even honoured for his leadership during the tragedy, receiving the Queen’s Fire Service Medal in 2005.

Now the chief officer of Scotland’s largest fire service faces difficult questions in the aftermath of the death of Alison Hume and Sheriff Derek Leslie’s judgment following a fatal accident inquiry.

In particular, questions will be asked as to whether the organisation’s health and safety rules are too rigid for an emergency service that must react to all manner of disasters.

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service may also face criticism for refusing to apologise to the family, even after receiving Sheriff Leslie’s findings.