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Firefighters brave freezing conditions in extreme weather training

An elite team of Hampshire firefighters has been undergoing extreme weather training in Denmark where temperatures can drop as low as minus 16C.

The nine-man group camped out in the unforgiving conditions and tackled disaster simulations involving earthquakes and tsunamis to test the skills of the UK’s International Search and Rescue team (UKISAR).

The contingent from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service worked with firefighters from elsewhere in the country as well as fellow experts from France, Russia and Denmark.

The team had to deal with four earthquakes scenarios which featured piles of rubble and debris and collapsed buildings, including a school and hospital, as well as overturned cars and the carcass of a plane.

The immersive exercise included a pregnant woman made homeless by the disaster and a casualty who refused to be rescued by a man on religious and cultural grounds.

Other actors were tasked with physically obstructing the crews or playing casualties who had lost limbs or suffered other serious injuries.

The fictitious community also had no power or water.

Base of Operations (BoO) manager Robin Bates, of Hampshire’s Urban Search and Rescue team and UKISAR, said: “Training exercises like this save lives – there is no doubt of that.

“These scenarios give you the chance to practice your skills in a way that is as close to a real event as possible.

“You also get the chance to co-operate with other teams and see how this would work in a real disaster situation.”

In addition to cold weather, the firefighters were whipped by fierce winds and torrential rain as they toiled in swampy conditions.

More than 160 people were involved in the exercise in Randers in Denmark that lasted eight days.

Crew Manager Bates has been with the USAR and UKISAR teams for 15 years and been deployed to the earthquake in New Zealand and severe flooding in Bosnia plus training exercises in Germany and Italy as well as several locations across the UK.

He said: “We are often sent out to help in countries which have nothing at all.”

This exercise was funded and co-ordinated by Danish rescue organisation Falck.

The Hampshire team members working with Crew Manager Bates were Adrian Johnson, Barry Atkins, Neil Brice, Jason Avery, Phil Crook, Marcus Hill, Kevin Fyfe and Simon Forster.

For more information please visit: www.hantsfire.gov.uk

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