Three fire engines and about 14 firefighters were called to rescue two casualties who were trapped in a sewer and had become overcome by fumes in Dartford, as part of a recent training exercise.
Fire crews from Thames-side and Ash-cum-Ridley responded to the simulated 999 call at Leigh Academy in Green Street, Green Road, which saw the teams climbing into a replica of a sewer system - a 70 metre long ventilation tunnel - as part of their confined-space rescue training.
The teams, wore personal protective clothing and breathing apparatus, they also used special equipment to check the air quality before entering, to enable them to detect any dangerous gases they and the casualties might be facing.
Commenting on the exercise, Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) crew manager, Julie Taylor from Thames-side fire station, said: “We train to use our crews and the kit in any situation where they can make a difference and potentially save lives.
“This involves working in confined and inaccessible places, but they do pose a unique set of challenges. It can be harder for rescue teams to reach the scene, when faced with areas where they can only just stand or have to crawl. It can also be difficult to maintain adequate communication with colleagues at ground level. The restricted space presents one of the biggest issues, especially when it involves walking at least 70 metres along narrow tunnels carrying those injured up to safety.”
A team of firefighters worked underground with limited visibility searching for the ‘injured’ pair, before making an improvised stretcher with part of a short extension ladder for one of the casualties who had fallen as he was climbing down a ladder to assist his colleague.
The second ‘casualty’ was found unconscious down the pipeline and was placed on a MIBS stretcher, which can be carried from either end, making for fast evacuation in narrow passage ways with a capability in vertical or horizontal lifts and lowers.
Both casualties were then carried to the bottom of the sewer shaft.
Meanwhile, firefighters above ground set up an improvised framework from short extension ladders to create an anchor point above the exit hole and a haulage system established, using safe access equipment. This enabled the team to winch both casualties out of the sewer to safety.
The rescue took approximately two hours to compete and also tested KFRS’s safe access equipment which can be used for rescues from height, depth and areas of difficult access.
Julie ended: “Being a firefighter is so much more than putting out fires and cutting people out of car crashes. People don’t realise that we get called out to a wide range of incidents, so we have to expect the unexpected, there is no typical day for us. But this valuable training scenario provided us with a realistic opportunity to test our skills and we are grateful to The Leigh Valley Academy for their assistance.”