London fire expert ‘Christine’ killed in house fire

Written by Terence Smith, CNN

Dublin-born fire safety expert Christina Anne McKnight, who died in a house fire in London’s Bexleyheath last week, was called “Christine” by her husband, James Kinsella.

Witnesses told British media they heard “some noise” and a shout of “fire” before the fire was reported. When the alarm was raised, Kinsella said his wife “went to the other side” and “suddenly wasn’t there anymore.”

McKnight, 51, a British independent consultant fire safety expert, had worked for the London Fire Brigade (LFB) for over 20 years.

Her husband told the Evening Standard he suspected that her body had been entombed beneath the rubble of the four-story house.

“I don’t know what happened in there, but there’s only a few floors up and it was a one-storey building,” he said. “It will be a challenge to find her.”

Firefighters put out the blaze after being called at 13:44 on Tuesday (local time) following reports that the house was fully ablaze. The London Fire Brigade said in a statement that no-one else was trapped and they did not believe anybody had been trapped inside.

“Christine helped LFB for a long time, and was a genuine team player,” the London Ambulance Service said in a statement. “She led by example. Our thoughts are with her family.”

LFB Assistant Commissioner Alan Castle said the home was “fully involved in fire, smoke and water.”

“There was no way of allowing firefighters access to the three-bedroomed house. Firefighters had to go through a clear emergency passage and then covered themselves with foam to escape the heat of the fire,” he said.

Firefighters are seen in London’s Bexleyheath after a fire broke out in a house on July 26, 2017. Credit: William West/AFP/Getty Images

“This fire took hold of the house in seconds. There was a lot of smoke and it was very difficult to get water on to the fire.”

Samantha Sun, a witness, told the Sun on Sunday: “Fire was coming through everywhere.

“It was very frightening. I saw an older woman in a house next door get out of the window, being helped by firemen, who sent her down another. There was fire everywhere and there were dogs as well.”

The couple’s daughter was also rescued from the building. She was taken to hospital and later released.

Alison Oldham, who lives nearby, told ITV News that when she came home her garden was covered in thick black smoke. “My sister and I had to go down to see if our garden garden was safe and not risk our lives going down there,” she said.

“We heard a man yelling ‘fire’ and someone saying ‘the roof is caving in’.”

Tracey Spencer, 33, from Portsmouth, Hampshire, who runs a cafe on the street, said it was “a terrifying situation” but that the London Fire Brigade was “the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“I came out of the pub and saw all the smoke.”

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