Fireman saves scrolls in Manchester shul blaze

By Jonathan Kalmus, December 11, 2008
A community member takes possession of a rescued Sefer Torah

A community member takes possession of a rescued Sefer Torah

A fire crew commander has been praised for rescuing three Sifrei Torah from a blaze at a small Charedi shul in North Manchester on Sunday night.

It was around midnight when emergency services were alerted by a neighbour to a blaze at the Apta building, a converted terraced house on Welbeck Grove in Salford. Shul members who gathered outside explained to fire-fighters that important religious articles were inside. Fireman Patrick Walsh re-entered the building to retrieve the scrolls.

He said afterwards that “as liaison officer to the Jewish community, I knew how important those scrolls were. Once we established there was no danger to life, it’s part of my job to salvage items of value.”

Apta’s Rabbi Jacob Freed said “it was a miracle that water wasn’t sprayed immediately, otherwise the scrolls would have been destroyed. The fireman was very brave and understanding, and we appreciate it. He did it with all of his heart.”

No one was injured and an investigation by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service recorded the cause as accidental. The synagogue’s interior was gutted and one scroll was seriously damaged.

Firemen pointed out that if smoke detectors had been fitted, the alarm would have been raised earlier.

Last updated: 5:05pm, July 23 2009