Mountain rescue helps fight moorland fires

Firefighters walk across a fire blackened moorland after being transported to the site by a Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue vehicle
Firefighters walk across a fire blackened moorland after being transported to the site by a Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue vehicle

MEMBERS of the Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue team helped firefighters tackle moorland fires that raged in Lancashire last week.

Volunteers from the county’s three mountain rescue teams worked in shifts and used their navigational skills and 4x4 vehicles to transport personnel, equipment, food and water to the fires high on the moors.

A spokesperson from Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team, who operate from a base just outside Garstang, said: “We’re quite used to supporting the police on missing person searches, and the ambulance service in snowy weather and flooding, it’s not very often we are called to assist the Fire and Rescue Service”.

The Team and their vehicles accessed parts of the moors that would have created huge problems for the fire service alone. In one case, the teams transported over two miles of hoses, along with portable generator pumps, to create a continuous uphill flow of water over about two hundred metres of ascent – and this was just one sector out of the six that they were operating in.

The spokesperson continued that the fire-fighters themselves also needed large amounts of drinking water to keep hydrated in hot and physically demanding conditions, and the mountain rescue teams helped with crew change-overs to keep the fire-fighters fresh and adequately rested during the lengthy operations.

“The local mountain rescue teams train together and to a common skill-set, so when we need to work together it’s like being one team, rather than different ones. It’s not uncommon for teams to call on one another for support when more personnel are needed for protracted searches, or searches over a large area.”

Bolton and Bowland MRTs have a long history of working together. The two team’s areas border one another in the area where the worst of the fires were seen.

The teams were not actively engaged in fire-fighting, but being well-trained in navigation were able to use their Land Rovers to locate new water sources for the fire crews. They were also on hand with full medical equipment in case any fire-fighters were injured during the operation.

The support to the fire service came at the end of a busy week for Bowland Pennine MRT, having been called by the police for three missing person searches, and by the ambulance service for three casualties in the preceding seven days.