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Mock blaze tests firefighters on grassland tactics
10:16am Friday 12th October 2012 in News
FIRE crews from across the country were put to the test yesterday during a major mock blaze at a North-East beauty spot.
The scenario for the training exercise centred on Hamsterley Forest and involved a grassland fire being blown towards trees by high winds, escalating the blaze into a major incident with the potential to destroy thousands of acres at an estimated cost of £12m.
The exercise tested the skills of specialist wildfire teams from County Durham and Darlington, Northumberland and Cumbria Fire and Rescue Services.
High-volume pumping vehicles from as far afield as Norfolk and Staffordshire helped provide the volume of water that would be needed to fight a forest fire.
Officials from the Forestry Commission and Environment Agency were also involved.
Organisers said that despite the wash-out summer, short periods of drought of up to six weeks could create conditions leading to catastrophic moorland or woodland fires.
The exercise allowed crews to practise a variety of firefighting techniques, including offensive burning, to prevent the uncontrolled spread of fire; the defensive burning of vegetation before the arrival of the flames and creating fire breaks and safe areas using hand tools and machinery, where available.
Andrew Whitehead, district manager at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Exercises like this are an excellent test of how the fire service nationally responds to a major incident.”
Mark Child, from the Forestry Commission, said: “Wildfires may be less common in the UK than some countries, but they still pose a very real danger to life, property and wildlife habitats.”
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