Fire fighters ready for summer after specialist wildfire training

FIRE FIGHTERS in Tameside are prepared for what may come over the summer months after specialist training on wildfires and burns.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) now has a live wildfire burns suppression team, also known as the burns team, after completing training in Catalonia with the Catalonian Fire and Rescue Service (Bombers) GRAF team.

And crews from Mossley, Ashton, Stalybridge, and Hyde fire stations have taken part in an exercise on Saddleworth Moor, alongside the RSPB and United Utilities, to test joint working in a controlled environment and to improve understanding of each other’s capabilities.

Fire Fighters – Wildfire Training on Dovestones

The GRAF team is made up of wildfire specialists and world experts in using fire as a tool to manage vegetation – called prescribed burning – and conducting tactical burns to create fire breaks – in essence, fighting fire with fire.

Led by Station Manager Ady Taylor, the first half of the specialist team carried out their training in October, with the remaining members completing their training last month.

Ady, wildfire lead for GMFRS and National Wildfire Tactical Advisor for the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: “The conditions over in Catalonia are ideal to prepare us for dealing with dry moorland here in the warmer months.

“We have seen the devastation moorland fires can cause all too well across our city-region and they are incredibly costly to deal with, taking up a lot of resources, causing damage to the environment and disruption to our communities.

Wildfire Training on Dovestones

“Though the beautiful scenery may seem a lovely backdrop for a barbecue in the sunshine, the consequences can be devastating. Please be considerate.”

The work formed a key part of the GMFRS Annual Delivery Plan 2022-24 as a project to enhance the Service’s capability to respond to wildfires through the introduction of this new team and new all-terrain vehicles.

And the Tameside crews got the chance to run a full wildfire attack with all the resources available to ensure familiarity and confidence in the procedures and tactics.

New communication methods were also tested with the command support unit from different locations around the site.

With sunnier and warmer days ahead, GMFRS asks for everyone’s support to reduce the risk of deadly and devastation moorland fires, and to ‘Be Moore Aware’.

Barbecues, fireworks and fires should not be used on moorland and the consequences of starting such a fire can include facing a fine or even prison.

Station Manager Martin Cain, who led the wildfire training, said: “The terrain of Saddleworth presents a great opportunity for us to bring together our new skills and equipment so that we can be prepared for the warmer weather and should we get the call to deal with a moorland fire.

“Protecting such a diverse region as Greater Manchester means we need skills in tackling fires in high-rise city centre apartment blocks just as much as large, undulating moorland.”

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