RAPID RELIEF TEAM SUPPORTS EMERGENCY SERVICES AT PIRBRIGHT MILITARY RANGES, HEATHLAND FIRES
Around midday on 15/04/15, fire broke out in very dry heathland belonging to the MOD. Fire crews were soon hard at work to attempt to contain the initial outbreak with approximately 8 fire engines and other specialist off road firefighting equipment.
The RRT received a call from Surrey Fire Service asking to attend site to provide refreshments and hot food for approximately 40 fire personnel. Some of the teams had been on site from around midday without anything to eat so were very glad when the refreshments arrived.
The incident commander commented ‘you just don’t know how much the spirits rose amongst the guys when they saw you and your teams turn up’.
The fire crews were using Unimog off-road tanker vehicles to carry the water to the fireground; these units carry around 5000 litres of water but this was soon used up on the fire so they had to continually return to the control base to refill from tankers that were being filled from hydrants nearby.
By the evening the fire had destroyed approximately 50 hectares of heathland but was under control.
High volume pump (HVP) units had been called in from Staines and Chertsey to help get water to the fireground. These teams laid 8 inch hoses and connected into a water main to allow a continuous supply of water to the crews fighting the fires. This relieved the constant refilling of the tanker units and crews worked from Wednesday night to Friday to keep the fire under control which was a tricky task as it was burning below the surface and kept breaking through.
Saturday morning presented a new challenge – a hot day and the wind had picked up and changed direction and the smouldering fire, fuelled by the wind started to rage again. Smoke could be seen from miles away. A railway line through the area had to be closed because the fire had spread to the other side of the track but this was soon bought under control.
By early afternoon there were approx. 80 personnel on the scene and a command tent was set up by the fire service to create an improved area in which to plan the attack to bring the fire back under control. The RRT supported the crews throughout this time by providing hot food and refreshments and assisting with any other requests such as repairing maps for the commanders and providing the tables for the new command point.
RRT provided a continual flow of hot food and drink for the wearied crews coming off shift which was greatly appreciated by all.
By Sunday morning approximately 10 kilometres of 8 inch HVP hose had been laid to enable a constant supply of water to the crews. The total area destroyed at present is approximately 650 hectares.