United Kingdom — SCORES of firefighters have taken part in a training exercise to practice how to deal with major grass fires in the lead up to summer.
Crews from Longton, Cheadle, Ipstones and Hanley carried out the drill at Parkhall Country Park in Longton on Saturday.
The simulated incident tested how Staffordshire Fire and Rescue would respond to a major wildlife fire. Twenty-five fire officers, led by station manager Brian Griffiths, came together to put their procedures to the test in a two hour exercise.
Mr Griffiths said: “Coming up to grass fire season, we have to do a lot of technical training to make sure we can deal with major incidents.
“The point of the day it to look at the fire plans and communication systems as well as our work with the police and park wardens.”
The fire service set three designated areas where the fires would be, including woodland near Bolton Gate and an area off Hulme Road.
Station manager Griffiths said: “We want to test our tactical knowledge. It is wildfire season and we have already attended many grass fires in the area.
“The problem we have with grass fires is that they tie up resources that should be responding to more serious incidents like house fires.”
The exercise was organised by staff at Longton Fire Station who put new equipment to the test.
This included the mobile data terminal which has been trailed in the last 12 months and gives firefighters instant updates on the weather and wind directions.
Mr Griffiths added: “It shows us which direction the smoke is moving so we warn residents if it is headed towards a built up area.”
He explained how more grass fires were being started by children.
Mr Griffiths said: “There have also been incidents of youths lighting grass fires in the school holidays. They do it for a kick but when they get out of hand it turns into a major drain on our resources.”
There were 130 grass fires reported across Stoke-on-Trent during the school Easter holidays.
Firefighters spent more than five hours putting out a blaze which affected 150 square metres of woodland near Little Stoke, last week.
Fire officer Paul Potter who covers Hanley and Burslem said: “The exercise has worked really well and it is important for the fire service to be prepared for these kind of incidents.
“We need to think about access points and water supplies in such large areas so it pays to carry out the research and practice runs like these. It is frustrating when resources have to be used on tackling deliberate grass fires.”