A fire broke out yesterday morning, 23rd November, on Sir Robert McAlpine’s £750m One Station Hill construction site in Reading, which celebrated topping out just two months ago.
It took a crew of more than 50 firefighters to extinguish the blaze.
Footage captured by onlookers showed a construction worker trapped on the roof of the 17-storey tower, engulfed by acrid smoke, just managing to climb into a man-riding cage in time to be lowered to safety by the tower crane operator, amid whooping and cheering from the ground.
It turned out that a second person was also rescued in the same way. Sixty-five-year-old crane operator Glen Edwards, from Egham in Surrey, told the press: “It’s not been your average day at work. I saw someone waving his coat. I knew the person was at that level. But the wind was blowing the cage about. I was just waiting for the smoke to clear. I could see I was putting it down in the flames. The banksman told me when he was in.
“I was no more than 20 metres up in the air and I looked out my left-hand window and saw a guy standing on the corner of the building.
“I’d only just seen him and someone said, ‘Can you get the cage on?’. So that was it. I got the cage on and got it over to him the best I could. It was quite windy conditions. I would say it was a very close call, if you look at the video at the way the wind was swirling around there.
“I tried to put the cage down between him and the flames, but I was hampered by the wind swirling around there. But I got the cage down and I managed to get him in there.”
Wayne Bowcock, chief fire officer at Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Following today’s fire in Reading town centre, I would like to add my thanks to the crane operator for an incredibly skilful rescue under extremely difficult circumstances. Without their actions, we may be looking at an entirely different scenario.
“On behalf of the service, I would like to extend our best wishes to the two people who were rescued from the building and wish them a speedy recovery.
“At the height of the fire, more than 50 of our firefighters and officers attended the scene rapidly and worked quickly and aggressively, with support from police, ambulance and other partners to extinguish the fire, which, as you can see from the footage had developed into a substantial fire.
“Thank you for the professionalism and dedication shown by all responders, as well as members of the Reading community for your patience and messages of support.”
Sir Robert McAlpine has been asked for comment.