Firefighters praised for efforts in floods

The crew from Carrow Fire Station in Berkshire as they assisted in flood-hit areas. The crew from Carrow Fire Station in Berkshire as they assisted in flood-hit areas.

Monday, March 3, 2014
11:17 AM

The Norfolk firefighters who came to the rescue of flood victims across the country have been praised by another service’s top brass.

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More than 40 firefighters from Carrow, Sprowston, Earlham, Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Thetford answered the call for help after January’s flooding in the Thames Valley and west country.

Their efforts were recognised in a letter this week from David Etheridge, chief of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, to Nigel Williams, chief fire officer for Norfolk.

Crews pumped out water, saved stranded residents, delivered resources and personnel and supported the battle for hearts and minds as extreme weather battered the south of the country.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service also provided essential tactical and strategic support during the crisis, with experts in flood rescue being drafted in to help battle rising water levels.

At the heart of the action was Tony White, one of 16 national-level tactical advisers with expertise in the use of High Volume Pumps (HVPs) who works in Norfolk as a Development Officer.

The 39-year-old, from Thetford, said he was “extremely proud” of the work done by our crews in Berkshire, Kent, Surrey, Somerset and Devon.

Mr White saw first hand the conditions faced by the crews, including one incident which saw him help to rescue six people, including three children, who were stranded in a car in the middle of a flooded road in Kidlington, Oxfordshire.

Concerned that the rising water would sweep the car away, Mr White and another fire officer moved the passengers to safety and called police for support. The officers continued their journey, but just a few miles down the road, a building collapsed and had to be cleared by a farmer before they could carry on.

He said the conditions made the simplest of tasks difficult.

“We would be trying to assess jobs and there were 80mph winds whipping around us. It was so intense and we were being blown all over the place.

“When the building came down, huge metal sheets span off the roof and into a field. If anyone had been in the way, it would have cut them in two,” he said.

The crews’ fight to save homes in the villages of East and West Ilsley from the overflowing River Pang epitomised the challenges faced, according to Mr White.

“Water was flowing from the river straight into West Ilsley and there were about 12 or 14 homes at real risk of flooding. We could pump the water out but the problem was that it had to go somewhere else, which was East Ilsley.The first thing was talking to all the agencies involved - the police, Environment Agency, army, highways all had to agree on a plan.

“In the end we worked out a solution that pleased everyone and saved both villages - it was a fantastic achievement,” he said.

Were you involved in the flood rescue effort? Tell us your story by emailing newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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