Fire chiefs announce £230k investment after devastating Boxing Day floods

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Fire chiefs in West Yorkshire have pledged to spend more than £200,000 on improving safety equipment and training for firefighters following the devastating floods last winter.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority carried out a detailed review of the service's capabilities after the Boxing Day floods in 2015, which ravaged homes and businesses in parts of the region.

Now it has announced the authority will invest £230,000 towards improvements to water rescue equipment, and training, in the wake of the unprecedented demand during the flooding.

Jim Butters, area manager for operations support, said: “West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has always been at the forefront when it comes to training and equipping crews for water rescue.

"However, on Boxing Day large areas of the county experienced flooding on a scale never experienced before and our firefighters worked in extremely challenging conditions. We are also attending an increasing number of rescues from fast flowing water and flood water, which has prompted a full review of our capability.

“This investment by the Fire Authority demonstrates our commitment to both public safety and the safety of our own staff.”

Improvements include transforming Todmorden Fire Station into a skilled swift water rescue station and providing equipment and training to crews.

The Calder Valley was one of the worst-hit area's in the region during the Boxing Day floods, and Todmorden Fire Station was effectively cut off by flood water.

A wildfire vehicle at the station will also be converted to carry water rescue equipment, to help crews respond to flooding.response .

As part of the improvements, powered boats, based at Bingley and Rastrick fire stations, will be replaced by boats which have more powerful engines.

Councillor Bryan Smith, Chair of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority’s Finance and Resources Committee, said: “Extreme weather events present a very real threat to public safety. This investment sends a strong message that we will do all that we can to provide the best possible rescue service to deal with these challenges, even though there is no direct government funding to provide this service.”

The number of rescue sleds held on swift water rescue stations will be increased from one to three at Leeds, Rothwell, Ossett, Bingley and Rastrick stations and flood response radio units will be replaced by new radio equipment for crews.

New smartphones will also be issued for the region's swift water rescue and flood rescue teams, to allow crews to use GPS and mapping applications during search and rescue operations and assist in tracking resources.

And all fire engines will be equipped with additional flood suits and provide extra water rescue dry suits.