Best training ground for UK fire crews

Chief Fire Office Alan Taylor (left) presents a gift, plaque and certificate to Ken Musgrave and Simon Huntington, of Ennstone Building Products

Shropshire fire crews have "one of the best" search and rescue training grounds in the UK - thanks to a county firm.

Yard manager Simon Huntington piled 3,500 tons of broken concrete onto a series of re-inforced pipes placing steel girders and roofing sheets on top to recreate a major building collapse. He made a two metre shaft and used concrete slabs to block up the interconnecting tunnels for firefighters to cut their way through during "rescue" scenarios.

The gigantic mound of rubble on a one acre site at Ennstone Building Products in Doseley, Telford, provides the perfect site for Shropshire firefighters to practice their search and rescue skills alongside specialist Urban Search and Rescue crews from Hereford and Worcester.

Shropshire Fire Chief Alan Taylor praised the company for its "excellent" support and presented Health and Safety boss Ken Musgrave with a plaque and certificate and Mr Huntington with a gift in recognition of their effort.

"Without the support of Ennstone Products in creating this extremely valuable training ground our fire crews in Shropshire would be unable to practice their skills in preparation for a building collapse. This is a truly remarkable training venue for us - one of the very best in the country."

Sub Officer Neil Griffiths, Watch Manager in the training department at Telford fire station, who helped set up the training ground with Ennstone Products said it was the best facility firefighters could get to practice their skills.

"This is the sort of scenario we could be faced with during a major building collapse. There is lots of dust, aggregate in the rubble, and the pile is unstable."

Rubble pile creator Mr Huntington added: "I've tried to make it as awkward for them as possible by blocking pipelines and using manhole covers in difficult places. They have to cut their way through the concrete to get into the heart of the mound. I really enjoyed making it and I'm going to continue to add to it as the crews work through it"

Fire crews have been holding training sessions at the site since May using acoustic and seismic listening devices, snake eye cameras, special shoring tools and cutting equipment to simulate how they would locate trapped victims.

Since the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks, the Government has invested £56 million in the New Dimension project with a further £132 million over the next three years to equip 25 fire services so that they can regionally deal with terrorist attacks, natural disasters or chemical or nuclear incidents anywhere in the UK.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service is not one of the UK brigades which has been kitted out with the specialist equipment to deal with such serious disasters. To counteract this, Shropshire fire crews worked with Ennstone and Hereford and Worcester to create the training ground so that firefighters would be ready to deal with any emergency.

"In Shropshire we aim to have a two hour resilience so that we can deal with any situation and stabilise it while we wait for the arrival of specialist urban search and rescue teams from our nearest brigades at Hereford and Worcester or the West Midlands," said Sub Officer Griffiths.

"We believe we are the first brigade not equipped with the New Dimension equipment to take this pro-active step to ensure that we are ready to deal with any major incident. If there is a building collapse or a terrorist incident we must have the capability to deal with it while we wait for help from our neighbouring fire services."

1st October, 2007