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Friday, 30 November 2007, 12:59 GMT
Funeral of warehouse firefighter

Mr Averis is the first of the four firefighters to be laid to rest
Funeral tributes
Hundreds of firefighters lined the streets of a Warwickshire village for the funeral of one of four firemen killed in a warehouse blaze.

The body of John Averis, 27, was found five days after the fire at the factory in Atherstone-on-Stour, Warwickshire.

Mr Averis' coffin was carried on a fire engine to St Gregory's Church in the village of Tredington.

Conducting the service, Venerable Dr Gordon Kuhrt said the tragedy shocked the community and the fire service.

Darren Yates-Badley, 24, and Ashley Stephens, 20, were also killed. Ian Reid, 44, died after being rescued.

Mr Averis is the first of the four men to be laid to rest following the fire on 2 November.

Strong bonds

More than 600 firefighters from around the UK, who had been given special permission to attend the service, lined the streets as the cortege arrived.

The coffin was covered in a Union flag, covered by white flowers and yellow flowers, which made the shape of a firefighter's helmet.

The coffin was given a salute by a senior officer from Warwickshire Fire Service before being carried into the church by pall-bearers, accompanied by members of Mr Averis' family.

Dr Kuhrt told the congregation: "Members of the fire and rescue service risk their lives on behalf of the whole community and on this occasion young men died."

He added: "Members of the fire and rescue service work in close-knit teams with strong bonds of friendship forged in experiencing together that danger.

"To risk and to give one's life in the service and care of others is a very noble thing."

Mr Averis's brother Paul paid tribute to "Little John". He said he would never forget his brother's "cheeky smile" and how he "shouted at the TV when the rugby was on".

He added: "The strength and vigour when he shook your hand so hard it felt like it would fall out of the socket."

He also described his brother's commitment to the fire service.

"When his bleeper went off he would be straight down the stairs," he said.

After the service, Mr Averis was buried at the church in a private ceremony attended by his family.

The funerals of Mr Averis's three colleagues will take place during December.

Investigations are continuing into the fire by Warwickshire Police, the Health and Safety Executive and the fire service.

Forensic examinations at the scene are expected to take several weeks due to the size and condition of the building and the investigation itself is expected to last several months.

On Wednesday, police said Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service could face charges of corporate manslaughter over the deaths of the four.