Shropshire fire crews race to Rotheram floods

27th June, 2007

Retained Shropshire firefighters were called to Rotherham as part of a UK firefighting team to prevent a dam from bursting its banks and deluging three nearby villages with flood water.

In a race against time, firefighters from across the country headed north to use a number of specialist high volume pumping units each able to remove half a million litres of water every hour - twice the capability of a normal pump.

Prees firefighters, who had been due to start work in their own full time employment, left for Rotherham at 7am yesterday (tues) and were among the first back up teams to reach Yorkshire's Ulley dam at 10am.

"It was in imminent danger of collapse. They had to urgently lower the water level to do some temporary repairs to stop the water from flooding villages nearby," said Assistant Divisional Officer Ralph Corbett, the Shropshire incident commander at the scene, who is from Telford.

Shropshire provided one of eight HVPUs called from across the UK to the dam as part of a massive emergency operation - the third of its kind recently which included flooding in Carlisle and a huge oil depot fire in Hertfordshire.

They helped to pump millions of litres of flood water into a nearby river to reduce the flow of water and prevent the collapse of the dam. The Prees firefighters were relieved from duty at 5pm by colleagues from London.

"They just dropped everything and went when the call came. I want to thank the crew's employers for giving them time off work to take part in this emergency action. Without the employers' support we would not have been able to help," said ADO Corbett.

Retained firefighters from Shrewsbury were also on standby to take over but were not needed.

The HVPU, manned by up to 14 retained crew from Prees and Shrewsbury, was delivered to Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service last year so that it could play its part in any nationwide emergency. Shropshire is the only fire and rescue service in the UK using retained firefighters to crew the HVPU.

"Large city fire stations need to have around 100 wholetime firefighters trained and ready for action on the HVPU while we do the same job in rural Shropshire with just 14 retained crew," said ADO Corbett.

The HVPU response is a result of the Government's New Dimension Programme set up to enhance the country's fire and rescue services' capability to respond to a range of threats including terrorist incidents, industrial and domestic incidents including chemical spills and collapsed buildings, and natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes. A total of 50 HVPUs will eventually be available nationally.

The Prees crew in Rotherham was: Acting Sub Officer Tony Peck, Leading Firefighters Peter Furber and Peter Grocott and firefighters Jeremy Chambers, Neil Gleeve, Mark Evans and Alan Smith.