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Winter 2015/16 has been a busy period for the Firefighters that make up the Flood Response Teams within Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS). Between late November and early January the teams and Tactical Advisors, responding in support of colleagues in affected Services, deployed to Cumbria on a number of occasions during November and December, then to Lancashire on Boxing Day and into West and North Yorkshire between Christmas and New Year.
This type of response has become a regular occurrence for Merseyside’s Officers and Firefighters over the last 10 years, beginning in Carlisle in 2005. Since then the MFRS Type B rescue boat teams, High Volume Pump crew and tactical advisors have attended all of the major UK flood events and have been engaged in preparatory work and active operations for international flood rescue deployments.
During this year’s events MFRS have assisted colleagues in dealing with the floods in a range of ways. This includes providing tactical advice to incident commanders on how national flood rescue assets can provide support to the rescue of people stranded in flood waters in addition to the deployment of Type B Boat Rescue Teams and the HVP (High Volume Pump).
Deployments this winter commenced in late November to Cumbria when a Tactical Advisor deployed to Police HQ Penrith and a MFRS Type B Boat Team deployed along with a type B team from Manchester to support Cumbria FRS crews in the Kendal and Egremont areas.
MFRS teams were deployed again to Cumbria on 5th December and that night, the MFRS Type B Boat Team assisted with rescue of six people in the loft space of a house in Pooley Bridge. Throughout that night and the next day, the Boat Team assisted with the rescue of over 80 people from homes in the Carlisle area.
By the next day, the HVP Team had been deployed to Carlisle airport to stand by for the possible airlift of the unit by Chinook into the Willow Holme Power Station site. Fire crews from Newton le Willows and Heswall provided mutual assistance from Keswick Fire Station in support of
their Cumbria colleagues between 5th and 6th of December, while fire crews from the Croxteth Day Staffing Team provided mutual assistance from Penrith Fire Station.
After a brief respite, the weather returned with a vengeance between Christmas and New Year and teams were again deployed to Cumbria. On this occasion, Lancashire and West and North Yorkshire were also seriously affected.
MFRS Boat Teams and the High Volume Pump (HVP) were again deployed to Cumbria to assist with widespread flooding in the county. Many other services from throughout the UK were assisting on the ground, and were helped by the Enhanced Logistical Support (ELS) capability operating at the Strategic Holding Areas (SHA).
An SHA was established at Cumbria FRS Headquarters in Penrith as floodwaters rose. With water levels rapidly reaching extreme limits, they began to overtop flood defences in Keswick, Kendal and Cockermouth.
MFRS Boat Teams remained in attendance for several days to maintain an effective water rescue capability in the affected area.
An MFRS Tactical Advisor and Type B Boat Crew were mobilised on 26th December to Lancashire where they supported operations with Lancashire FRS at the SCG/TCG SHA and in the Ribchester area.
Due to the dynamic nature of the floods which were, by this time, affecting all of the north of England these crews were redeployed to Halifax on conclusion of their work in Lancashire. The crew were on standby from the SHA at Halifax overnight to provide cover for West Yorkshire into Leeds and Pontefract. On the morning of 27th December the Merseyside team were again redeployed to York to rendezvous at the revised SHA formed at Strensall Army Barracks. During this deployment there were 10 boat crews from around the UK, five Water Rescue Tactical Advisors and Enhanced Logistical Support (ELS) all providing assistance to North Yorkshire FRS with floods across the county. Water levels peaked at 5.4m during this period and three High Volume Pumps were deployed to the area.
Photo: Steve Gadsdon.
Photo courtesy of Paul Wharton Photography.

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