Shropshire firefighters back on BBC Real Rescues

Retained firefighter Roger Smith, who was mayor of Market Drayton at the time, was in charge of the firefighting operation at Woodseaves and tells his story about the elephant grass fire on BBC Real Rescues
13th June, 2011

Shropshire firefighters will be back on national TV next week when two more of their fire and rescue actions are re-told on the popular BBC Real Rescues programme.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service is pictured on the montage of images at the start of the high action TV show which features dramatic film footage and interviews of events attended by emergency services.

Former Market Drayton mayor Roger Smith tells how his firefighters fought a huge battle at a Shropshire farm to contain a fire involving “elephant” grass used as a bio fuel in power stations. The severe heat from the wall of flames melted the apron worn by householder Margaret Gibbons who feared her home would be engulfed in the blaze.

Retained firefighter Roger Smith and Margaret Gibbons during filming for BBC Real Rescues

Mrs Gibbons talks of the bravery of firefighters who put out the huge fire.

“I walked out in disbelief. I couldn’t believe my eyes. All I could see was a wall of flames. I could feel my face scorched and my pinny crackling with the sheer scale of the heat,” said Margaret, who was treated by paramedics at the scene for shock.

“The fire was travelling along the hedge very close to my house. It would have taken the house if it was not for the firefighters.

“It looked like a vision of hell. I feel lucky to be alive and it’s all thanks to our lovely firefighters.”

A total of 60 firefighters eventually put out the fire at Woodseaves in April using water from a pool half a mile away. Flames were up to 40ft high and 150ft across as 1,000 large bales of elephant grass were ablaze creating a temperature of 1,000 degrees. The UPVC window frames were starting to melt at Margaret’s home, said Roger, who was mayor of Market Drayton at the time and in charge of the firefighters at the scene.

“The flames were spreading and we had to think about the properties next to the field. Trees and hedges were on fire and we had to stop the fire from spreading.”

Roger said that in 45 years of firefighting he had never experienced a fire so intense. Two appliances from Market Drayton and Hodnet initially attended with another four pumps called to the scene. Fortunately the wind diverted the flames away from the homes.

The ferocity of the fire facing Shropshire firefighters

The elephant grass fire drama will be shown on BBC Real Rescues on June 16th at 11am. Shrewsbury firefighters will also be on the same programme on June 14 talking about how they rescued a terrier trapped down a rabbit hole near Shrewsbury using shovels and listening equipment in a three hour drama.

The dramatic rescue of a brother and sister from a Shrewsbury house fire was featured on the programme’s first show which went out earlier this week.

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