Firefighters in West Yorkshire are to get extra training and new equipment for water rescue following the Boxing Day floods.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority will spend £230,000 on improving water rescue equipment and training for firefighters across the county as a result of a detailed review which followed the unprecedented flooding in December last year.
Flood water badly damaged Elland bridge and caused millions of pounds of damage to homes and businesses in Kirklees and Calderdale.
Jim Butters, area manager for operations support, said large areas of the county experienced flooding on a scale never experienced before and firefighters worked in extremely challenging conditions. Crews were also attending an increasing number of rescues from fast flowing water and flood water, which had prompted a full review of the service’s capability.
Improvements will include turning Todmorden fire station into a “skilled swift water rescue station” and providing suitable equipment and training to crews. The station’s wildfire vehicle will be converted to also carry water rescue equipment.
The authority’s powered boats – based at Bingley and Rastrick – will be replaced with ones with more powerful engines while the number of coswains at those stations will increase from one to three per shift.
The number of rescue sleds held on swift water rescue stations – Leeds, Rothwell, Ossett, Bingley and Rastrick – will be increased from one to three.
Flood response radio units will be replaced by new radio equipment to make it easier for crews communicate in difficult weather and swift water rescue while flood rescue teams will be provided with smartphones to allow crews to use GPS and mapping applications during search and rescue operations. All fire engines will be equipped with additional flood suits and water rescue dry suits.