THE two firefighters killed in a blaze at Shirley Towers have been awarded a fire service medal for gallantry.

James Shears and Alan Bannon died as they tackled a fierce blaze at the Southampton tower block in April 2010.

Now the families of the brave pair have been presented with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service's Meritorious Medal for Gallantry.

During a private ceremony at St Mary's fire station, the families were also presented with helmets and station number lapels belonging to Alan and James.

Alan's award and helmet was collected by his daughter Abi, while his station lapel was presented to his mother Margaret.

In a statement, his family said: “We are and always have been very proud of Alan and everything he has done.

“All of Alan's family and friends know what a dedicated man he was in all aspects of his life and how much he loved living life to the full.

"Alan was a much loved family man who always put others before himself. It was always his ambition to become a firefighter.

"He loved his job and those he served with on Red Watch, as well as those in the wider fire service family.

“Though this award cannot bring Alan back, it does go some way to recognising the risk that all firefighters put themselves at every day to protect us all.

“It is also something which will allow Abi to remember how brave her Daddy was."

James's medal was presented to his wife Carla and the helmet to his youngest son Ruben. James's station lapel was collected by his father Ed.

His family added in a statement: “Jim would probably have been a little embarrassed by this award as he never considered himself to be a hero. He just loved doing the job he always wanted to do.

“But he was always a hero to his family - a dedicated father, husband, uncle brother and son - and not a day goes by when we don't think of him and miss him dearly.

“As with all of Jim's achievements, we are extremely proud to be presented with this medal for gallantry.

“This award will help to remind us of the selfless nature of his actions at Shirley Towers as he helped to protect the lives of others.”

Earlier this year, jurors at an inquest said that “numerous factors” had contributed to the deaths of Alan, 38, and James, 35.

Jurors heard 15 days of harrowing and emotional evidence at Southampton Coroner's Court about how the burning ninth-floor flat turned in to “a death trap”.

The jury eventually recorded a verdict of misadventure for the two members of the Red Watch crew.

Chief officer John Bonney said the gallantry awards were only handed to firefighters who carried out “acts of considerable bravery”.

And he added: “There is no question that this is what was shown by Jim and Alan as they put themselves in harm's way to ensure the safety of others on that night.

“This award is to formally recognise their courage, dedication and service, and to remember the sacrifice they made.”