Five 'rescued' from ancient building in fire exercise

Firefighters at the Adcote School Fire Exercise

Five people were "trapped" and ancient artefacts put in jeopardy when one of Shropshire's historical buildings set on fire in a practice 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.

Adcote School at Little Ness, near Baschurch, built in 1879 for the great niece of Abraham Darby, was the venue for the exercise launched on Saturday.

A total of 35 firefighters and six fire appliances from Baschurch and Shrewsbury attended the grade 1 listed building set in 27 acres in remote countryside. More than half a mile of hose was laid out from the nearby country lane along the lengthy entrance drive to the distinctive Victorian building.

Fire crews, playing the role as if it was real, wore breathing apparatus to climb to the top floor of the three storey boarding school to "rescue" three pupils and two trapped workmen - played by dummies.

After the successful rescue, firefighters salvaged precious paintings, a grand piano, grandfather clock and computers - all substituted by inexpensive replacements. They also acted out the scenario to "save" the last surviving ornate ceiling in the mock Tudor property from water damage.

Assistant Divisional Officer Phil Brooks said the exercise was important to test the skills of firefighters in as real a situation as possible.

"We have learned lessons from this which will help us in future firefighting. But the message we also want to get out is that there are a lot of listed buildings throughout Shropshire and people need to be cataloguing priority artefacts they want saving in the event of fire."

Adcote school bursar Ursula Prudence, worked with fire crews four years ago to ensure they had knowledge about the school to prevent fire spreading and save irreplaceable items.

"We have catalogued our most precious items so that they can be salvaged if there is a serious blaze," she said.

20th August, 2007