Crematorium bosses to meet funeral directors after fires disrupt services in Sunderland

Firefighters attend incident at Sunderland Crematorium

Firefighters attend incident at Sunderland Crematorium

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Council bosses say they will meet funeral directors to discuss concerns after recent fires at Sunderland’s crematorium.

Leaders at Sunderland City Council have already issued an apology after a service in the city was disrupted by one blaze and a second incident prompted another call to the fire service.

Funeral director Tony Clarke.

Funeral director Tony Clarke.

Mourners were asked to leave the Chester Road building during an afternoon service on December 9.

The first blaze broke out when a filter overheated, with staff calling 999 when they spotted smoke.

The second happened on Monday, when 16 firefighters and four appliances were sent to the facility, when there was a fire in a drum used as a filtration unit.

William Eccleston, managing director of the National Federation of Funeral Directors, said: “Arranging a funeral is a traumatic enough experience for families and these recent events in Sunderland have added to many local families woes.

The role of a funeral director is a difficult one where you have to juggle providing a professional service to bereaved families with bureaucratic local council red-tape and are often left having to explain to the families who are left frustrated by such delays in the system

William Eccleston, managing director of the National Federation of Funeral Directors

“Crematoria run a highly complex and potentially-dangerous operation, and new measures on filtration systems have had the potential to cause issues like this from the very beginning.

“Many council-owned crematoria are only too quick to charge funeral directors extra for running late yet, with all of the disruption to schedules caused by their own failures, I can’t see them putting their hands in their pocket and giving back.

“The role of a funeral director is a difficult one where you have to juggle providing a professional service to bereaved families with bureaucratic local council red-tape, and are often left having to explain to the families who are left frustrated by such delays in the system.”

Tony Clarke, a member of the federation who runs his own funeral business, said the incidents had caused his customers concern, as they fear there will be further problems, and branded the issues a “blunder”.

Councillor Michael Mordey.

Councillor Michael Mordey.

He added: “It will have a massive impact on families, who just want the best for their loved ones.”

Portfolio Holder for city services, Councillor Michael Mordey: “We will be writing to the National Federation of Funeral Directors to invite them to meet the head of service, so that we can address their concerns directly, rather than through a third party.”