Summer turns up the heat on crews

Station commander Andy Crowther at Brighouse Fire Station.
Station commander Andy Crowther at Brighouse Fire Station.

As the soaring heat continues throughout Calderdale, the specialist water rescue team at Brighouse fire station has already seen an increase in the number of calls.

Brighouse is one of five teams in West Yorkshire which specialises in water rescues, whether it is on rivers, canals or reservoirs. With an average call out of four water rescues every month, the firefighter service has advanced down the years and is constantly honing its skills for every eventuality.

Firefighters Danny Pepper, left, and Dave Barker with water rescue equipment at Brighouse Fire Station.

Firefighters Danny Pepper, left, and Dave Barker with water rescue equipment at Brighouse Fire Station.

Station Commander Andrew Crowther explained how firefighters are kept on their toes.

“Every couple of months we go to Tees Barrage White Water Course and to the River Humber for training as we are guaranteed fast moving water,” he said.

“We are able to practise swimming in the fast flowing water and it is in a controlled environment.

“At the course there is a specialist site where they have a car in the water so we are able to practise rescuing people from vehicles in the water.

“It is a very challenging aspect of the job and when you have completed the exercise you definitely know you have done it.”

Brighouse station will be combining with Elland fire station to create a new Rastrick brigade in 2015, but the water rescue unit will remain.

The rescue team has different aspects depending on the type of rescue - swift water response and flood rescue.

The station has a specially adapted engine that carries the swift water response equipment.

This includes a four metre inflatable boat along with 25m rescue lines and poles, flotation devices and baskets to carry animals.

As one of two teams in West Yorkshire which is trained in flood rescues, the team can be called to any part of the UK.

Along with a 4x4 vehicle, they use a five metre boat which can carry up to eight firefighters and is used for more sustained rescues where flooding has occurred over a number of days.

“One instance was earlier this year when we were called to Newbury in Berkshire when they had the floods there,” said SC Crowther.

“We were there to help residents in the area making assessments of the villages and what was required.”

During the rescue, firefighters are kitted in a dry suit, water boots with enhanced grips and flotation jacket device.

They also carry a knife, a tether hook to connect themselves to ropes, glow sticks and safety helmet with light as water rescues can take place at any time of the day.

In the warmer months, the crew has received more calls due to more people spending recreational time around water.

In July and August alone they have already been called to a series of serious incidents on the waterways and reservoirs.

They were called Tinker Bridge in Keighley where an eight-year-old boy came into difficulty in the river.

The specialist team also attended The Royal Armouries in Leeds when a woman was seen in the dock.

And the crew went to Castleford on the River Calder where a couple had a lucky escape after their 15ft pleasure craft caught fire.

“We would urge people to swim in proper supervised areas as even strong swimmers can get caught out by the cold,” SC Crowther said.

“We would advise people not to swim in wild places as they are hazardous, not just the cold but underwater debris people can’t see, and pollution.

“Being part of the water rescue team is a very challenging role.

“It is a particular example of how the fire service has changed to meet new demands.”