Norfolk firefighters on red alert to rescue as York braces itself for flooding

The Urban Search and Rescue Team from Norfolk Fire and Rescue help with the national response to the

The Urban Search and Rescue Team from Norfolk Fire and Rescue help with the national response to the floods in Leeds. Photo: Norfolk Fire and Rescue - Credit: Norfolk Fire and Rescue

Crews from Norfolk's fire and rescue service are today on red alert in the front line of the battle against the life-threatening floods in northern England.

The team spent the weekend using boats to bring victims to safety from their wrecked homes in Leeds after some of the worst flooding ever seen in the region.

And today, with fears the River Ouse in York will peak close to its highest recorded level, Norfolk's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team is bracing itself for a crucial role in the rescue operation there.

A team of seven officers from Norfolk Fire and Rescue were sent on Boxing Day to assist with the response to the floods in Leeds.

The team was then redeployed to York, where hundreds of people have been forced to leave their homes after waters reached record levels.

Thousands of properties are still at risk, with the river set to reach its peak at around lunchtime today.

An extra 200 military personnel have been deployed, alongside the existing 300 already there, with 1,000 more on standby.

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Bob Ayers, a tactical flood adviser from the Norfolk service, has also been despatched to help and is playing a key part in the operation.

He said: 'Talking to the local crews, they get floods in York about seven times a year, but this is extreme flooding. It is causing them great concern. They fear that today is going to be the big one, when the river levels are going to be at their highest.'

The Norfolk team had used boats to rescue four people and a cat in Leeds, before they were redeployed to York.

Mr Ayers said: 'In west Yorkshire, we arrived late in the day, so all the mayhem was pretty much under control and we were left with dealing with the aftermath.

'But now we are in York, we are likely to be out on the streets from early in the morning to help wherever we are needed.'

The Norfolk crew, including Mr Ayers, will be working with colleagues from Merseyside in their efforts to rescue people and safeguard properties.

The USAR team, based at Dereham fire station, was set up in 2006 in response to the September 11 bombings. The award-winning Norfolk team has quickly become one of the highest regarded in the country with its ability to turn its hand to water-based emergencies.

Mr Ayers previously helped in the national response to the floods in the West Country in 2014.

At the start of December, when parts of Cumbria were hit by Storm Desmond, Peter Holliday from Norfolk Fire and Rescue was despatched to help assist as a tactical flood advisor.

A further team was later sent to help the flood hit areas of the northern county.

In 2013, when the Norfolk and Suffolk coastline was hit by a devastating storm surge and flooding, teams from across the country came to the aide of our coastal communities which took the brunt of the damage.