Two of the region’s fire crews have joined forces for an intensive wildfire training exercise.
Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service and Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service teams came together on the West Allenheads estate in Northumberland for a training session where they shared best practice and equipment that is used at wildfire incidents.
The training has enabled the teams to enhance their skills in predicting wildfire spread, developing effective suppression plans, safety management and understanding wildfire behaviour, so that they can be safer and better equipped for a multiagency response to wildfire incidents.
This comes on the back of 15 wildfire incidents so far this year in Northumberland and 14 wildfire incidents in County Durham and Darlington during record-breaking temperatures this summer. Some of these fires were caused by campfires and disposable BBQs.
Wildfire lead at Northumberland Fire and Rescue, Rob Stacey said: ‘It’s been a busy year for our crews. We have responded to 10 more wildfires this year compared to last, and we’re concerned that we might see even more cases next year. We need to be fully prepared to tackle these as safely and efficiently as possible.
‘Large field exercises are challenging to plan and deliver, but they can be extremely effective for helping to improve wildfire response and training. This particular exercise will contribute to a more seamless operation between our crews and local land managers – particularly in the South of Northumberland where the Durham border sits.’
Cllr Colin Horncastle said: ‘I’m so proud of all the hard work of our fire crews in keeping our residents and visitors safe – especially throughout a tough summer of wildfires this year.
‘We have some of the most beautiful areas in the country here in Northumberland and it is fantastic to see our crews working together to share the latest skills and procedures which allow for better preparedness and protection of our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.’
The training revolves around a fictional yet realistic scenario where a wild camper did not fully extinguish their campfire prior to leaving the site and a wind has created a flaming fire which has then spread into surrounding vegetation. However, no real fire was used during the exercise.
Wildfire lead at Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue, Dan Wootton said: ‘This was a great opportunity to expose crews to the environment they would face should such an incident occur.
‘Being able to train and work with neighbouring services, landowners and managers will improve and develop our response as well as providing an opportunity to share best practise. Special thanks to Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service and the West Allenheads team.’