Farm training for Firefighters

Harnesses are put under a distressed horse at the Nedge
20th March, 2008

A cow in a canal, a disgruntled bull left floundering in a river and a heifer with its head stuck in a feeder are just some of the incidents which Shropshire firefighters have been called to deal with along with house fires and road crash rescues. Now they are being given training by Shropshire Young Farmers in how to handle distressed livestock and other animals in a newly introduced scheme by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

In less than a year, firefighters have attended 45 callouts to rescue an array of animals including the bull in the river at Kynnersley, a cow which had fallen into the canal at Welshampton and a heifer stuck in a metal feeder and another one in railings at Bridgnorth.

Horses, cows, sheep, dogs, cats, swans, ducklings, pigeons and even a baby owl have all been rescued over the past year from precarious situations by firefighters who are learning how to approach distressed farm animals, how to attach harnesses onto trapped livestock and the added potential dangers and hazards they may come across when dealing with a farm fire.

Firefighters saved the life of this new born calf delivered just minutes after they rescued the mother from a pond in Telford. A horse stuck in mud is helped by firefighters

The training was introduced in a unique expertise swap between the brigade and members of Shropshire Young Farmers Clubs. More than 250 firefighters attended 17 training sessions lasting 90 minutes each on farms across the county – and in return 30 young farmers were given 15 courses on how to tow trailers.

"The young farmers were absolutely fantastic. They put on courses for both our wholetime and retained firefighters on Shropshire farms which allowed crews to handle cattle, horses and livestock and learn about the dangers they may face in an animal rescue," said Group Manager John das Gupta.

"It was all about how do you safely extricate a horse stuck in a sileage pit without endangering yourself. It was hands on training to fit a harness and straps onto a horse. They also learned how best to approach a horse or cow in distress, where to stand and how to deal with the animal. It was superb and very worthwhile training.

"I want to applaud the young farmers for setting it all up so professionally. We will ensure the training continues with refresher courses for both firefighter and young farmer."

Shropshire Young Farmers with firefighters from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service

Firefighters also got to know their local farmers and farm layouts to prepare them for any future call outs. They also learned about diseases on farms and the dangers of silos and how vets and farmers have the correct harnesses and clamps to move livestock.

Wellington firefighter Dave Buckland, of White Watch, said the training had been invaluable.

"For me it was my first time to get close to livestock. We learned that the danger from a cow is not from being kicked from behind but it is their heads which they use to defend themselves and push you into a wall where they can roll you over and crush you.

"They showed us how to be confident with the animals. I know about horses but I didn't have a clue about farm animals. It was very useful training."

Firefighter Mel Kapitanec with one of the cows Rescued! - chasing rabbits was never meant to be this difficult

Megan Jones. Shropshire Young Farmer's Club county organiser, said the sessions had been very interactive with firefighters learning the basics about farming beginning with the difference between a placid milking cow and a cow reared for meat which was less used to humans. They then moved onto the dangers of livestock.

"Animals can cause harm. They can kick, bite, tread on you and squash you sideways. Where appropriate you should stand right up to the back of a cow and not half a pace away to lessen the injury caused by a kick. If an animal gets spooked it can crush you against the railings in a pen.

"We taught them how to lead a cow, how to put on the halters and harnesses and the proper lifting techniques. We showed them the danger areas on a farm including the slurry pits. In return we got invaluable training on how to handle and manoeuvre trailers the fire brigade's chip pan trailer."

Shropshire Young Farmers with firefighters from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service

Other incidents attended by fire crews across the county include a horse in a Claverley bog, five sheep in flood water at Knockin, a horse which had to be released from mud using shovels, lines and machinery. Firefighters had to remove barbed wire from a horses tail using bolt croppers at Shrewsbury and free a cow pierced by branches from a tree at Wem.

They also attended to three ducklings stuck down a drain in Shrewsbury, a kitten trapped in a cavity wall at a Telford home, a dog in a sewer pipe and another in a cat flap. A pigeon has been released from bridge netting and an owlet safely returned to its nest by firefighters using ladders and a rope.

One bagged swan off to the vets for a check up after it swallowed a discarded hook and line at Stirchley pools, Telford In the careful arms of a Shropshire firefighter, an Alsatian is delivered to safety after it jumped out of a first floor window and got wedged on the sloping roof of a bay window below