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As the country enters into another period of extreme heat, the Met Office has issued a Level 5 Exceptional Fire Severity Warning for parts of Buckinghamshire this weekend (13/14 August 2022).

The Fire Severity Index (FSI) does not indicate the risk of a fire occurring, but the likely severity of any fire which does occur in an area at that time. It is based upon wind speed, temperature, time of year and rainfall. It has 5 levels:

  • FSI level 1 = low fire severity
  • FSI level 2 = moderate fire severity
  • FSI level 3 = high fire severity
  • FSI level 4 = very high fire severity
  • FSI level 5 = exceptional fire severity

Already this month, Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) has attended multiple field fires, including those at Foscott, Marlow Bottom (pictured), Mursley, Penn and Lane End.

The Met Office has issued an amber warning for extreme heat, lasting from midnight on Thursday, 11 August until 11.59pm on Sunday, 14 August.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (BFRS) would like to remind residents on warm weather safety advice and how to keep themselves and others safe during heatwaves.

We have already seen high volumes of demand this summer. We are asking our communities to help reduce the risk of fire during this prolonged period of high temperatures and dry weather by avoiding using naked flames in the open wherever possible.

Additional safety advice for hot weather is:

The Met Office have today (Friday 15 July) issued a red extreme heat warning for Monday (18 July) and Tuesday (19 July) across the South East. In response, Thames Valley Police, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, and the fire and rescue services from Oxfordshire, Royal Berkshire and Buckinghamshire are collectively issuing advice to residents on steps they can take to reduce demand on their services. This includes:

  • Looking out for others, especially older people, young children and babies and those with underlying health conditions.
  • Closing curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler and remember it may be cooler outdoors than indoors.
  • Drink plenty of water, stay in shaded areas, dress appropriately for the weather and slow down when it is hot.

All services are expecting an increase in demand over the coming days. Communities are being encouraged to only dial 999 in emergency situations, which includes when a life is in danger or a crime is happening right now. There are mechanisms in place for those who need to contact the police and health services in non-emergencies, including online services.

Deputy Chief Constable Jason Hogg, Chair of the Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum said:

“As temperatures increase across the Thames Valley, so will calls to 999. We are working closely with our fire, ambulance, health and local authority partners to prepare for the challenges that heat brings, and to keep our communities safe. Do take advice on water and fire safety and look after yourself and keep hydrated.

“With the expected heat warning over the coming days, we are expected to see an increase in individuals contacting the police, sometimes for matters we cannot help with. To speak to the police about anything that is not an emergency and where you do not need to speak to someone at that moment in time, please contact us online. This will help keep our 101 service for those who need to speak to someone and help preserve 999 as an emergency line if a crime is happening now or life or property is at immediate risk.”

We’ve enjoyed following our new recruits over the last couple of months as they navigate their way through eight tough, yet rewarding, weeks at The Fire Service College, Moreton-in-Marsh.

A montage containing the best bits of the recruits eight week training course.

We have seen them learn to tackle fires, brave great heights, and keep calm under extreme pressure.

With core firefighter skills firmly under their belts, they will now embark on the next phase of their apprenticeship and meet their new firefighter family, joining them on stations across Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

It is time for the real journey to begin – and we’re proud to say we are with them every step of the way!

Following fire service tradition, to celebrate this milestone, we held a Pass Out Ceremony where successful recruits are awarded certificates and find out which stations they will be assigned to. For the first time in around 25 years we hosted this important event at the Blue-Light Hub, West Ashland. Friends and family, Members of the Fire Authority, and fellow employees attended the ceremony to congratulate and officially welcome our new recruits.

There was a real buzz of excitement as the audience were treated to a demonstration by the newly fledged firefighters, which included a collision and “persons reported” scenario. It was an opportunity for family to see how hard their loved ones have worked. In the words of one of our smaller guests: “ I am here to see Daddy be a hero” – and we don’t think they could have been disappointed.

Before being presented with their Pass Out certificates from our Chief Fire Officer, Jason Thelwell, he offered them some words of wisdom:

“Be the best you can possible be. Be better tomorrow than today and live up to the highest standards expected by your colleagues and your community. Well done to you all.’

CFO Jason Thelwell – 20 May 2022

Big Congratulations to:

  • Firefighter Marco Capella
  • Firefighter Kai Day
  • Firefighter James Ford
  • Firefighter Stephen Gould
  • Firefighter Tomas Petrons
  • Firefighter Jason Purssell-Danks
  • Firefighter James Steele
  • Firefighter Elliott Thomas
  • Firefighter Elliot Tierney
  • Firefighter Daniel Walker
  • Firefighter Lewis Bristol
  • Firefighter Felix Baxter

In the tradition of the fire service, on every course a silver axe is presented to the top recruit for showing great self-discipline, motivation, and leadership qualities throughout the course. And an exceptional attitude to learning.  This was awarded to Firefighter James Steele.

Congratulating our new recruits in completing their eight-week training course at Fire Service College.

It is important to Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service that we support our community as it represents the people we serve. With this in mind, a special thank you is made to local charity MacIntyre Catering which supported the event by providing refreshments on the day.

BFRS Firefighter recruits pass out May 2022 with Macintyre Catring Team

The MacIntyre team created the food to their usual high standard, and presented in a professional manor, which was well received by all those that attended.

Westcott Venture Park is set to become home to a new disaster training facility for our Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team.

The USAR programme was established following the 9/11 attack on New York in 2001, to improve the country’s ability to respond to the increased risks posed by terrorism. USAR forms part of the Government’s New Dimension programme, which seeks to enhance the capability of the fire and rescue service to respond to a range of major emergencies. 

Kevin Mercer, Aylesbury and USAR Station Commander, said:

“We are really excited about our future at Westcott where we aim to develop one of the best USAR training facilities in the country.

“Our tenancy will help further showcase Westcott and its commitment to supporting this specific and essential national resilience capability.”

Exercises play a part in training:

In September 2020 Westcott hosted Exercise Phoenix for us (shown in images above), a major disaster training operation which involved a scenario with a small jet crashing into a rocket testing and fuel production facility following an unsuccessful emergency landing.

More than 100 personnel from five USAR units across Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Essex, and West Midlands attended, along with tactical advisors, and canine search teams trained to detect live human scent.

They were joined by ten Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) paramedics using a range of specialist lifesaving equipment and vehicles and Police Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) teams.

We are still in the very early stages of developing the site into a training venue and looking to source a range of materials from rubble to unwanted vehicles to help build the rescue scene.

Alan Still, Watch Commander USAR Support, added:

“Exercise Phoenix was extremely successful, and it opened people’s eyes to the potential it has for hosting such large-scale exercises. A significant part of the training facility is a blank piece of land, where we need the equivalent of 200 tonnes of rubble, and we need help to build it.”

Anyone who may have suitable materials to help build the rubble pile/disaster scenario should email Kevin Mercer or Alan Still: kmercer@bucksfire.gov.uk or alanstill@bucksfire.gov.uk.

The move will see pre-hospital critical care crews using the station as a standby location from which to reach people in need of urgent care. They will also have a dedicated space to hold debriefs and sensitive discussions after being called out to treat those who are seriously ill or injured.

In addition to its helicopter, TVAA has five critical care response cars which provide greater flexibility in areas difficult to access by aircraft. These cars frequently use ambulance standby locations, such as one in Slough, but securing access from Marlow Fire Station will provide the charity with further deployment options across a region covering over 2,000 square miles.

Having response cars at key places across the region means it can give people the best possible chance of survival and recovery, bringing the hospital to the patient, wherever they are.