Rescue success by fire crews at Whitchurch training exercise

Firefighters at the scene of the training exercise in Whitchurch, Shropshire

Two extensive fires occurred virtually simultaneously, with four contractors working on site being successfully rescued from a fire at a large cold storage facility in North Shropshire, this being the latest exercise staged by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service as part of their ongoing annual training programme.

This scenario was implemented to test Brigade procedures for dealing with a large and protracted incident involving numerous crews, which included the deployment of a large number of breathing apparatus teams for firefighting and the rescue of casualties.

The scale of the operation also gave the opportunity to implement Brigade Command and Control procedures, including the setting up of a breathing apparatus main control point.

The venue was Grocontinental cold storage facility, based on the Whitchurch Business Park, and 10 appliances with 60 firefighters and command and specialist officers were mobilised.

The appliances were drawn from all areas of the county in order to ensure sufficient cover was still in place to deal with any subsequent emergencies.

Appliances and officers taking part either rendezvoused at Whitchurch or Prees Fire Station prior to commencement.

The first crew to be mobilised was Whitchurch with Leading Firefighter Keith Robinson as Level 1 Commander and on arrival they were directed, by on-site staff, to chamber 7A where it was soon discovered that a fire involving a battery operated fork truck had spread into the storage racking and now involved stored product on wooden pallets which the officer-in-charge was informed were contributing to the fire spread.

A 'make pumps 5' message was passed to Control at 09:20 hrs for breathing apparatus and manpower.

Appliances Hodnet, Clun, Newport, Wellington and Shrewsbury (for command support) were despatched from their rendezvous points, together with an Incident Commander and a Specialist Officer for health and safety and fire investigation.

Separate BA (breathing apparatus) crews were committed into the chamber for firefighting on left and right hand searches, in order to fight the fire from two sides. A hydrant water supply was identified off site and duly set into in order to provide additional water for firefighting.

Shortly after arrival (09:36 hrs) Incident Commander Station Officer Neil Grove took charge, thus taking the incident to Level 2 command, and instigated the setting up of the Incident Command vehicle by the Shrewsbury crew. Having done so, a second fire was discovered on a mezzanine floor above the loading bay area with contractors working on site unaccounted for.

Station Officer Grove 'made pumps 9' at 09:57 hrs and further appliances from Albrighton, Baschurch, Oswestry and Craven Arms were despatched from their rendezvous points, together with a Level 3 Commander.

Further breathing apparatus crews were committed onto the mezzanine floor to carry out search and rescue and firefighting, including the laying of a breathing apparatus guideline.

Meanwhile, further information was received indicating there were also two additional contractors unaccounted for and believed to be in chamber 7A. This resulted in additional breathing apparatus crews being committed for search and rescue, also a guideline was laid to assist with safe entry and exit of crews to the scene of firefighting operations.

On arrival Divisional Officer Mike Ablitt took charge, thus taking the incident to Level 3 command.

Due to the large number of breathing apparatus crews being committed and relieved, breathing apparatus main control was set up under the command of Station Officer Dave Dickens to facilitate BA set servicing and crew deployment.

A request to Control for additional breathing apparatus cylinders resulted in arrangements being made for them to be despatched from Tweedale. Also, further cylinders were transported from the fireground to Market Drayton Fire Station for recharging.

The exercise was completed and terminated at 11:18 hrs.

Thanks to all crews, officers, control room staff and observers for your enthusiasm, without which we could not produce such a successful, realistic 10 pump Brigade exercise which included going to Level 3 command.

Thanks also to Mr Stuart West, Chairman of the Fire Authority, for attending and observing at close quarters the practical work of the Fire and Rescue Service. He showed great interest and asked many questions as the exercise unfolded and I am sure he will now be more than able to give a first hand report to other members of the Authority.

Last but not least, our appreciation once again to the Directors of Grocontinental for allowing us to use their premises, with a special mention to Paul Wood, Health & Safety Officer, for his invaluable assistance in setting up the exercise.

A structured debrief facilitated by Station Officer John Harrison took place on Tuesday evening, 19 February 2008, the report on which will be distributed to all participants in due course.

A DVD Rom of the exercise is available and copies can be obtained from Retained Support Officer Mike Beach by e-mail or on 07816 293 019.
26th February, 2008