Shropshire fire crews prepare for large scale blaze

Some of the firefighters at the training exercise in Whitchurch

Firefighters turned out in force to Shropshire's largest food storage depot in a major exercise launched to prepare them for any future large scale blaze.

A total of 63 firefighters in ten fire pumps arrived at the Grocontinental compound in Whitchurch Business Park – one of the largest freezer stores in Europe with 90,000 palletts stacked to the roof with food from across the world.

The exercise, in which firefighters wearing breathing apparatus sourced a fire in one of the huge 200ft by 200ft compounds, involved crews from Whitchurch, Hodnet, Newport, Wellington, Baschurch and Oswestry.

Cross border support also came from Chirk firefighters who have linked up with their Oswestry counterparts as part of an English and Welsh firefighting agreement recently signed by both fire chiefs.

Firefighters had to feel their way through the blackened compound to locate the blaze imbetween metal storage palletts containing tonnes of Canadian cheese while at the same time carrying out a "rescue" of three missing workers trapped inside the 70ft high building.

District Officer Phil Brooks, who organised the training event, said they had learned crucial information which would make them better prepared for any blaze in the future.

"The exercise went well and we used all resources. It has raised some operational issues for us which will allow our firefighters to learn and develop."

Oswestry Retained Support Officer Mel Kapitanec said: "It has been very helpful for fire crews to familiarise themselves with the compound and to take part in such a large scale exercise."

Chief Fire Officer Alan Taylor said that because of highly successful fire safety education there were now less fires in Shropshire but fire crews had to be prepared for any incident.

"This has been a perfect training event for us and we need to continue to do more to ensure fire safety in the future."

Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority chairman Stuart West said he had also benefited by learning how well fire crews co-ordinated to work together on such a major exercise.

Grocontinental chairman Ray Grocott, who invited the fire crews to carry out the exercise at his commercial property, said that fire was the largest risk for them as a business.

Chief Fire Officer Alan Taylor, left, pictured with Ray Grocott and Stuart West, Chair of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority, right.

14th February, 2008