A full-scale reconstruction of a fire was key to the conviction of a man for the manslaughter of four brothers and sisters who were tragically killed in a house fire last year.

Dyson Allen was found guilty after an eight-week trial at Preston Crown Court in an incident that Group Manager Mark Hutton described as "one of the most tragic fires Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has ever attended".

"Despite intense efforts on the night by firefighters, paramedics and medical staff, nineteen-year-old Reece Smith, four-year-old twin girls Holly and Ella and their brother Jordan, aged two, all lost their lives and everyone seeks to extend their deepest sympathy to the family,” he added.

Specialist Incident Intelligence
In the immediate aftermath and for over a year afterwards, specialist Incident Intelligence fire investigators worked as part of a multi-agency team to establish not only how this started but also why it developed so quickly and with such tragic consequences.

Working closely with forensic scientists, scenes of crime officers and other experts, the investigation was painstaking in its detail. Among those findings were from live fire trials undertaken at the BRE in Watford, conducted inside a full-scale reconstruction of the Lytham Rd dormer bungalow.

The consistent picture that emerged was that of an extremely fast-growing fire that produced conditions in the first floor that became fatal in a matter of minutes.

Hutton concluded that "without these trials, a guilty verdict would have been far less likely."

Collective ability to mount a thorough investigation
“Whilst we are deeply saddened by the loss of life we are reassured that our collective ability to mount such a full, thorough and professional investigation has contributed to the verdict announced today and demonstrates the value of inter-agency working in the pursuit of justice,” he said.

BRE constructed the test rig and equipped it with instrumentation measuring, amongst other things, temperature gradients, radiant heat flux, oxygen, carbon monoxide levels and concentrations of other relevant fire gases. This was supplemented with normal and thermal imaging equipment to document the trials.

The test rig also had a full domestic electrical system to validate the effect the fire had on RCDs and MCBs which was also crucial in terms of ensuring the test findings reflected the timelines reconstructed from witness evidence. Police and Crime Scene Investigators were present throughout the tests to ensure admissibility of evidence.