Seven of the nine people killed in the 2011 midnight Mong Kok inferno died on the main staircase of a walk-up building, an inquest into the tragedy heard yesterday.
Senior fireman Wong Chun-keung, who arrived at the scene of the blaze at 4.49am on November 30, 2011, said the bodies of the seven people were all found above the fourth floor of the nine-storey building at 192-194 Fa Yuen Street.
Wong, 55, from Yau Ma Tei Fire Station, told the Coroner's Court yesterday that his team of four started their search and rescue work from the back staircase on the ground floor.
They went up to the fifth floor and to the roof to rescue the residents there as instructed by their senior, he said.
To make their way up to the roof, Wong said, the firefighters had to go through the back staircase and then through a unit on the fifth floor to get to the main staircase of the building.
The back staircase, which started from an alleyway near Sai Yee Street, was not connected to the roof, he said.
The lights at the main staircase had gone out and there was heavy smoke, Wong said. "When we arrived at the front gate of the unit and pushed it open, we saw a person lying there," he said.
The man, whose face was burnt and who was no longer breathing, was later identified as 63-year-old Wu Jumou.
Six other bodies were found on the sixth and seventh floors and on the roof.
From 5.51am, eight other firefighters arrived at the roof to help Wong's team evacuate 19 people who had gathered there, including a baby and several injured tenants, the court heard.
When Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu asked Wong why no firefighter was sent down to carry out search and rescue at the lower floors, he said this was because of limited manpower and equipment as well as instructions given by his senior.
Meanwhile, station officer Lo Man-kam of Mong Kok Fire Station said that when he arrived at the scene, he found the mezzanine floor of 192 Fa Yuen Street and the stalls outside on fire.
Lo was the first person-in-charge at the scene.
The role was later taken over by the Fire Services Department's deputy director David Lai Man-hin.