Shropshire firefighters in flood action

Shropshire firefighters have been heavily involved as part of the UK’s national resilience force battling the worst floods to hit the country for many years.

On call fire crews from across the county left their work and families at short notice to be part of the largest mobilisation of the UK’s fire and rescue services since the Second World War.

They have been working day and night in Reading and Staines over the past week pumping water from flooded homes and helping with the rescue efforts.

Fire chiefs have praised the impressive co-ordination of all 51 High Volume Pumps (HVP) from across the country – including one from Prees, operated by Shropshire firefighters who are among the most experienced operators in the country with their pump being one of the first to be introduced in the UK 18 years ago.

Shrewsbury’s Mac Harris (56), a firefighter with 25 years’ experience, was one of 12 highly trained tactical advisors from across the country to play a key role in the emergency.

Mac, a retained support officer, who trains National Fire Service College instructors on HVPs, was involved in the top level gold command at Reading fire HQ where he advised Berkshire’s Assistant Chief Fire Officer about where to deploy pumps as part of the strategy to deal with the crisis.

“We identified areas where we could move water out of flooded homes and helped to protect a sewage treatment centre and power station to ensure they were not flooded,” said Mac, who also visited flood sites to advise on the situation.

“The people of Berkshire were wonderful. They were really appreciative of what we were doing. The Army also worked incredibly hard.

“It was amazing that all 51 of the country’s High Volume Pumps were deployed. But it didn’t matter whether a firefighter was from Prees or Preston. We are all trained to a high level and all worked together extremely well.”

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service responded after a call from the Royal Berkshire and Surrey brigades as part of the nationally co-ordinated flood relief operation.

Shropshire’s Chief Fire Officer John Redmond praised on call firefighters, their employers who allowed them time off work and senior fire officers who have been at the scene.

“The experience has been useful for our crews who have made a real difference to people’s situation and has given us an opportunity to prove our own preparedness with equipment and the skills necessary to deal with a wide area of flooding which is something not uncommon here in Shropshire.”

On call firefighters from Baschurch and Clun – where fire stations were earmarked for closure as part of budget cuts – have been heavily involved in the operation to pump flood water away from people’s homes.

Glenn Willis and son Adam (24) have been working 12 hour shifts through the night with colleagues to pump water out of homes into a dip in the road being used as a water collection point before using the HVP to transport it into the River Thames.

They were relieved from duty when another crew including Glenn’s nephew Connor (24) arrived yesterday (Sunday). The Willis family are all on call firefighters from Baschurch.

“You do feel for the people on seeing the state of their houses. We just keep pumping it out. But as soon as you switch the pumps off, it starts to rise through the drains again. We will just keep pumping until the levels drop,” said Glenn, who works as a diesel fitter at Caterpillar Shrewsbury.

He praised his employers for releasing him at short notice to take part in the relief operation.

“They are a very good employer. Two other firefighters also work there and they let us go whenever we are needed. This is our third night here,” said Glenn who was involved in the flooding relief operation in the West Country in 2012.

Station Manager Carl Franks said the water had been up to 5ft deep in homes in Staines but they had been pumping it out at a rate of 7,000 litres a minute. A second Shropshire appliance with a three kilometre length of hose was also being used to send the water into the Thames.

“Householders whose homes have been devastated are bringing us mugs of tea and biscuits and there is a very good spirit,” said Carl, whose crew also helped out a resident when a dozen Koi carp and goldfish flooded out of a garden pond into the water collection area.

“We helped the owner recover the fish and they have now been returned to his garden pond,” added Carl.

The estimated £40,000 cost of the Shropshire operation will be refunded to Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service. A new crew arrived in the area yesterday headed by Telford Central station manager Adam Matthews.

They will be involved in the clear up including decontamination of equipment.

Crews from fire stations at Prees, Shrewsbury RDS, Clun, Craven Arms and Baschurch have been involved.

24th February, 2014