Workmen 'rescued' in north Shropshire fire exercise

Firefighters at the Hawkstone Hall Exercise in North Shropshire
28th September, 2007

Six casualties were successfully "rescued" when a fire was reported in the basement of a historic building as part of a training exercise staged by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The scenario was part of a major operation launched by firefighters to practice their skills, test water supplies and get home the message that all county owners of listed buildings must prepare for such a disaster.

Hawkstone Hall Pastoral & Study Centre at Marchamley, near Shrewsbury, an early 18th Century Georgian mansion, was the venue for the exercise which took place on Tuesday 18 September.

A total of 24 firefighters and three fire appliances from Hodnet, Market Drayton and Whitchurch attended the grade 1 listed building after reports that several personnel from a contracting firm working on site being unaccounted for in the burning building.

Playing the role as if it was for real, Hodnet were the first appliance to be mobilised to the scene with fire crews from both Market Drayton and Whitchurch following at five minute intervals in order to create realistic arrival times, as would be the case if proceeding from their base stations.

On arrival the first appliance was met by the Maintenance Engineer from Hawkstone Hall and the Officer in Charge, Leading Firefighter Rob Fox, was able to establish the location and estimated extent of the incident.

Breathing apparatus teams entered the building through two adjacent doorways in order to carry out the search and rescue of the basement areas and subsequent underground passageways. A total of five breathing apparatus teams, including relief teams, successfully "rescued" all four casualties from this area - played by dummies.

Whilst the search and rescue operation was ongoing it was established that a workman had made his way upwards, through the main building, onto the roof area and was seen to be hanging over the parapet. Fire crews quickly deployed a 13.5 metre Lacon ladder in order to perform a rescue. However, on reaching the head of the ladder, it was found that a further workman had also made his way onto the flat roof area. Subsequently, both casualties - also played by dummies - were "rescued" and taken to the first aid area previously established to deal with the casualties rescued from the basement.

A water supply was provided from the internal hydrant system to facilitate simulated firefighting operations and SFRS Training Instructor Wes Shutt supervised the breathing apparatus deployment, searching and control procedures.

Mike Beach, Retained Support Officer said, "We wish to acknowledge the assistance given to us by Hawkstone Hall in allowing us to carry out this exercise, in particular to Scott Barber (Maintenance).

"We would also like to thank all participating crews for their enthusiasm, including the downright determination of BA crews to successfully carry out rescues in difficult circumstances, for example crawling along narrow and low passageways, which resulted in a most successful exercise."