Picture of Stony Stratford High Street from Milton Keynes Council
From 1.30 pm on Wednesday 23 December, the forecasted rain arrived from the west, moving through northern Oxfordshire and into north Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.
This, as expected, caused a rapid increase in activity for Thames Valley Fire Control, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (BFRS), Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Service (OFRS) and Thames Valley Fire Control Service (TVFCS). This increase in activity continued up until midnight with BFRS dealing with multiple flooding incidents, specifically in the villages north of Milton Keynes, Buckingham and surrounding areas.
Group Commander Steve Hawkins said: “Many of the challenges encountered by both the public as well as BFRS during this entire period were due to flooding of roads that made getting to the locations difficult. A number of small communities and houses that were completely isolated and for a period during the early evening the A422 and the A421 were impassable between Milton Keynes and Buckingham.
“During the afternoon it was apparent that TVFCS were very busy, as were the appliances in the north of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, travelling between multiple incidents. Significant areas of flooding included Lavendon, Ravenstone, Tingewick, Gawcott and Finmere. Other areas of focus were main roads where significant numbers of cars were stranded in rising water with their occupants unable to safely exit their cars.
“There was no respite into the evening, so in order to maintain the welfare of those involved in the flooding and rescue activity, as well as to assist TVFCS with maintaining fire cover throughout the area during this period of increased activity, BFRS stood up the Operational Support Room (OSR), which remained in place until 11:30pm.
“As the evening progressed it was apparent that the main activity focused on the area around Buckingham where the river hit its historic high mark at about 10pm. In light of the call numbers continuing to rise, TVFCS prioritised our attendance at incidents focussing on life risks. During this period, due to the work undertaken by Control and OSR, fire cover was maintained throughout, which ensured we were also able to respond effectively to a house fire in Tingewick during the busiest time of the evening.
“A number of people tried to drive through floodwater when advised not to and we understand some drivers removed warning signs and continued their journeys into the floods, even on occasion compromising the safety of firefighters carrying out rescue activity. ”
Control received a number of calls from members of the public who had been told that BFRS would recover their vehicles from floods and that it would also attend to hand out flood barriers and sandbags, which unfortunately it is not able to do. There were a number of occasions throughout the period when BFRS was unable to pump out water from properties simply because the water table was too high and there was nowhere nowhere to pump it.
Steve continued: “During the period, officers and appliances worked extremely hard in trying conditions. TVFCS received, at one point early evening, a call every minute and dealt with 321 incidents throughout the period. BFRS itself attended 161 incidents, most of which were flood related, during this period, with a number of these flooding incidents involving multiple rescues and multiple properties.”