Canoeists "rescued" in water training exercise

A Shropshire firefighter in water rescue training on the River Severn in Bridgnorth

Shropshire firefighters "rescued" four canoeists in a water training exercise which mirrored real life rescues carried out on the fast flowing River Severn at Bridgnorth.

About 40 firefighters from Bridgnorth, Much Wenlock, Shrewsbury and Tweedale fire stations took part in the three hour evening event to test their skills using throwlines, a boat and carrying out bankside searches for missing people.

Retained Support Officer Dave Jennings said: "We attend many incidents to rescue people in the water and along the river banks of the Severn. That is why training exercises are so important to us so that all our firefighters are trained ready for any type of water rescue."

In the training exercise a canoe with four men on board tipped over in the water with two rescued using throw lines and the Rigid Inflatable Boat. A fisherman acted out by a fire training instructor went to help but also had to be rescued. The remaining two canoeists were then rescued downstream after a bankside search.

"We do rescue a lot of canoeists who get caught out on the river. Just a couple of months ago two canoeists got into difficulties for real when they were marooned on Pitts Island when their canoe was swept away," said Mr Jennings.

The training is part of a three year programme run by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service to train all crews. A total of 500 firefighters – both wholetime and retained – are being put through the courses run by the brigade's training school in Telford which has Royal Yacht Association training centre status.

Practical sessions are being held in rivers and lakes in Wales at Llangollen, Bala, and the Menai Straits before trainees return to Shropshire for the more "in depth" training in the fast flowing River Severn in Shrewsbury, Telford and Bridgnorth.

"We are called to water incidents across Shropshire during floods in Shrewsbury, Telford, Ironbridge, Much Wenlock and Bridgnorth. We also have lakes in Ellesmere in the north of the county, a brook regularly floods at Melverley, near Oswestry, and we are also called to the River Wye in neighbouring Herefordshire," said instructor Scott Hurford.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service is also called on in national emergencies with a firefighter incident response team and their boat was sent to assist at floods on the east coast and in Devon last year.

13th May, 2009