London Fire Brigade

Injured Wandsworth firefighter visits pioneering medical charity

20 June 2011

Firefighter Richards with the CommissionerA Wandsworth firefighter who was badly burned in a fire earlier this year has visited a pioneering medical charity to see its work on revolutionary new technology to help recovering burns victims.

Richard Richards, 26, lives in Forest Hill but works for green watch at Wandsworth fire station. He and his fellow firefighters were called to a fire in East Hill in Wandsworth on the evening of 8 January. Firefighters thought they were making good progress in putting out the blaze but the unusual design of the house was hiding a bigger fire. This unexpectedly exploded, resulting in four firefighters to be injured.

Richards suffered serious burns to 18% of his body including his arms, legs, shoulders, neck and hands. He spent just under three weeks in hospital while doctors undertook skin grafts to take skin from his thighs and back to cover his burns. Doctors expected Richards to be in hospital for between five and seven weeks, but his rapid recovery saw him being discharged just 19 days after the accident.

This week (Thursday 16 June) Richards has been visiting the medical research charity RAFT, to learn more about its work on a new technology which hopes to radically reduce the time it takes patients who suffer burns to recover from skin grafts. This will not only save money and cut the time people have to spend in hospital but also greatly reduce the chances of them catching an infection.

Firefighter Richards, said:

“My fellow firefighters and the Brigade have been tremendous in supporting me. I knew there was an element of danger when I signed up to become a firefighter but you still don’t expect something like this will happen to you.

“After the accident, I quickly decided that I wanted to turn what happened into a positive. The work the scientists at RAFT are doing is invaluable. If they can cut the time people take to recover from skin grafts it will make a huge difference to people like me and potentially save lives. RAFT is completely funded by donations from the public. If I can help raise awareness for the charity so it can do its vital work, it might mean that in some way, my accident has helped other people.”

Leonor Stjepic, Chief Executive of RAFT, said:

“Everyone at RAFT was thrilled to welcome the Commissioner and Firefighter Richards. The London Fire Brigade has been a huge supporter of the charity for many years and it was a wonderful opportunity for us to show them exactly how their support has allowed RAFT to achieve so much.

“The Brigade was particularly interested in our crucial research into wound healing. RAFT has developed an artificial skin scaffold which encourages the body to heal itself more quickly. With major traumas to the skin, such as burns, speed is of the essence in order to combat the onset of infection.

“We are thrilled to be one of the London Fire Brigade’s chosen charities and we look forward to continuing our working relationship in order to help patients of the future.”


Notes to editors:
Images available on request.