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A silent tribute will be paid today (April 6th) to two firefighters who lost their lives tackling a tower block blaze a year ago.
Alan Bannon, 38, and Jim Shears, 35, died when they were exposed to extreme heat while inside the 15-storey Shirley Towers in Southampton on April 6 last year.
Colleagues from across Hampshire will mark the one-year anniversary by observing a two-minute silence at 11am, and flags will be flown at half-mast for the day.
The tribute is in line with the wishes of the families of the men and members of Red Watch at St Mary's Fire Station in Southampton, where they worked.
Red Watch will observe the silence at their station and then lay flowers at the memorial stone at the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service headquarters in Eastleigh later in the day.
Mr Bannon's widow, Charlotte, said:
"It doesn't seem possible that it has been a year since we last saw Alan's smile, heard his laugh and Abi felt his arms around her in a hug.
"Every time I look at her I am reminded of what a wonderful, devoted and loving father he was and am saddened to think he will miss seeing our brave little girl grow up.
"The year has past quickly mainly thanks to the love and support of family, friends, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and the public. I would like to send a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has sent cards, raised funds or made a donation. The words of sympathy and condolence along with people’s kind generosity have been simply overwhelming.
"I would especially like to thank all the Firefighters at St Mary’s and other stations around Southampton.... Alan’s “Brothers” for the support and love they have given to Abi this past year. Words can not adequately describe my appreciation and respect for you all.
"We are immensely proud of Alan and of Jim and they will forever be in our hearts and in our thoughts."
Mr Shear's widow, Carla, said:
"One year on, the pain of losing Jim is still raw. I miss his smile, his funny humour and his devotion to his friends and family.
"I am not sure how we have managed to get through the past year. It has been incredibly hard. My friends and family have made it possible.
"Support from the big hearted public through their kind words, cards, generous contributions to fund raising events and those that have completed fantastic efforts to raise funds has bought me much warmth inside and for which I am very grateful and again I would like to say a huge thank you.
"As always, my deepest respect and love goes out to all Fire Fighters, especially those of St Mary’s Red Watch. I wish them all to be safe. I would like to thank Hampshire Fire and Rescue for their valued and continuous support over the last year and for the difficult times ahead.
"Jim and Alan are always in my thoughts and always will be. They are our heroes, never to be forgotten and I am incredibly proud of them both."
Red Watch, St Mary’s Fire Station:
"We will never be able to replace ‘Bert’ and ‘Britney’. They each brought very different things to Red Watch and we miss them a lot. We will always miss them. But, what they did both bring was bravery and courage and we will always be proud of them and think about the lives they saved on that tragic night.
"As a Watch, it is something you never want to face – losing one of your watch members, colleagues, firefighters and above all, losing a friend, and on that night we lost two and it will stay with us forever. But as a tribute to Bert and Britney we have carried on in the most professional way we can, savings lives and working with people in our local communities.
"The immense kindness and support of the all of the people around us has been overwhelming during the last year and has helped us during the difficult days. We would like to give them our heartfelt thanks for the continued support as we move forward into the years ahead without Alan and Jim.
"Importantly, though, we have learnt to laugh again, which is what Bert and Britney would have wanted us to do. We have grown strong as a Watch and their bravery and strength on that night has helped us to do that. We will all be remembering them both in different ways on 6 April 2011 and they will always be a member of Red Watch, St Mary’s."
Chief Officer John Bonney said:
"As we move towards the one year anniversary of the tragic fire, we pause to reflect on the year and pay tribute to our lost colleagues. Since the incident we have moved forward as a service and focus on new challenges, but Jim and Alan and their families will forever remain in our thoughts."
Today, staff and members of the public will also be able to pay their respects by placing a message on the Service’s online condolence book.
All the residents from the high-rise block, including one heavily pregnant woman, were led to safety and unharmed.
Investigations into the deaths continued, Hampshire Police said.