Harrogate fire crews mounted a large training exercise this week.
Crews from West Yorkshire, Masham, Summerbridge, Ripon and Knaresborough came together at the Cairn Hotel for a simulated hotel fire incident. This was for training purposes and to build closer links with West Yorkshire fire crews who they work with on some incidents.
Harrogate-News was asked to go along and watch the training but, was then asked to play the role of the hotel owner.
The incident scenario was a basement fire with several trapped workers, both in the basement and the floors above. Life-size and weight dummies had been positioned within the building, some were within the basement and others on balconies on the upper floor.
Although planned for some months, the exercise was initially hampered a little by a number of emergency call-outs. This is the reality of their work and could of happened of course if it was a real incident.
The aerial ladder platform was reversed close to the building. The vehicle was levelled with other fire crews still arriving and putting on breathing apparatus in readiness for entering the building.
Station Manager, Simon Render then asked if I could play the role of the responsible person – the hotel owner. With a slightly nervous, I agreed to play the role.
The incident commander then came to me with a write-on board asking me to draw a layout of the basement, where the fire was. It now dawned on me why the hotels floor layouts had been hastily put into my bag by the station manager!
A few minutes talking through the plans and I was getting into the role of the bumbling hotel owner very nicely, who apparently didn’t know the layout of his own hotel or how many staff were on duty even.
Now back to taking photographs and watching, that was much less stressful, but not for long. Incident Commander back to me asking how many people were inside “umm five or six, I think” came my answer. To which I was challenged, “well which is it five or six?”
As the dummy bodies started to come from the building and the questions kept coming, the whole exercise was beginning to take on a realism that wasn’t expected.
I play acted making a phone call to find out who was on duty and again was approached by the commander informing me that they had just taken out the body of a child and asking why was a child in the building?
By now the aerial platform had lifted 3 dummies (people) from the building and a number of people had also been taken from the basement and laid out. I was asked to go and identify the bodies although warned that some were badly burnt.
The exercise lasted two hours and I had time to reflect on it during my drive home. What struck me was the way they tackled the incident with a purposefulness calmness. Although, there were upwards of 20 fire-fighters at the exercise, everyone had a task to do and was doing it.
Heaven forbid we have any fires, but the reality is, they will happen. When they do, we should be justifiably proud and confident in the work done by the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Thank you to the NYFRS for allowing such privileged access to their work.
Aerial ladder platform is positioned as crews put on breathing apparatus
Working with a buddy – putting on breathing apparatus
Ready to enter the basement with hose reel
Aerial platform picks a dummy from the building – basement entry shown on the left
Crews enter the basement
Aerial ladder platform picking a dummy from the building
A dummy being bought down from the building
Dummies laid out, simulating casualties