Chief's Blog

NI Fire & Rescue Service

Above and Beyond

Above and Beyond

Category: Uncategorised    Date: 20th July 2018       

‘Thank –You’. I want to put on record in this blog my personal thanks and appreciation to all NIFRS staff for your tremendous effort over the past couple of weeks. So many people went above and beyond the call of duty to help the organisation through an exceptionally busy couple of weeks. I am so proud of the hard work and professionalism that I witnessed and which was echoed in the many words of support and praise which we received from the public and other agencies who recognised the challenges we faced in recent weeks.

NIFRS has once again proved its resilience and successfully met the significant challenge of responding to the high level of operational activity that we faced as a result of gorse/wildfires, 11th July bonfire activity while also maintaining normal service delivery which included a significant number of major fires and several serious road traffic collisions.

It has been an intense and demanding time as we answered 5660 emergency 999 calls and responded to 3000 incidents (8am 26 June – 8am 13 July). We responded to 1,275 gorse/wildfires, and 1,541 other operational incidents; including 200 major fires (42 dwelling fires), 25 road traffic collisions, 134 special service calls and 450 secondary fires.

The 11th July is always a busy time and this year there was an extra intensity as we worked with other statutory partners to plan our operational response to bonfires which posed a risk to people, property and the environment. The run up to 11th July coincided with an exceptionally busy period for us and added to our pressure and challenge.

From 6pm 11th July until 6am 12th July we received 369 emergency 999 calls and mobilised to 193 incidents (a 25% increase on 2017), 69 of which were bonfire related. Between 10pm-midnight, RCC personnel handled an emergency call every 48 seconds. In addition, Crews in Derry, Dungannon and Whitehead were attacked. While I’m thankful and relieved no Firefighters were injured, one of our appliances was damaged. These attacks highlight the, sometimes, precarious situation Firefighters face when called out to deal with bonfire related incidents. Once again I commend all those who were involved in the planning and operational response to 11th July bonfires.

Over the past couple of weeks we have been operating at almost maximum capacity as our Regional Control Centre Personnel, Officers, Firefighters and Support Staff collectively responded to the operational challenge.

Our Command Room at NIFRS HQ was operational for almost 2 weeks as we put contingency plans in place and made standby arrangements to ensure the best use of our resources to provide the resilience we needed.   Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Alan Walsmley, led on the resilience planning, supported by HQ and Area Officers and we worked closely with our partner agencies. On behalf of NIFRS I send our thanks to all those involved in supporting us in tackling the gorse fires and especially to the Irish Air Corps who worked with us at the large gorse fire in Slieve Gullion.

 

Our Regional Control Centre personnel worked tirelessly answering 999 calls and mobilising fire appliances to incidents. Tackling gorse/wildfires as we know is difficult and laborious but our Firefighters put in a tremendous effort in the heat for prolonged periods of time in remote locations to try and stop the spread of these fires. Firefighters across NI were called to respond and our Retained Firefighters spent long periods of time away from their main employment and families. I thank all the employers of our Retained Firefighters for supporting NIFRS over the last couple of weeks, by giving our Retained Firefighters the time off to respond to these calls. Without the support of many local businesses we could not operate the level of service we do.

The operational response over the last couple of weeks was supported by many of our support functions. A large supply of welfare provisions was ordered and dispatched by Stores out to the Area Commands to support the Firefighters on the ground. Transport was busy supporting operational delivery through maintenance and repairs to keep appliances on the run. Corporate Communications dealt with approximately 200 media enquiries and interview requests in a 2 week period and issued daily media statements and social media updates to provide public safety messages and operational updates to keep the public informed.

(Photo courtesy of Firefighter Scott McSpadden)

I attended the Slieve Gullion and Rasharkin wildfires and I could see how hard the Firefighters had been working.   Their efforts on Slieve Gullion and at Rasharkin were reflected across Northern Ireland.

You should all be justifiably proud of your contribution to protecting our community over the past couple of weeks, it has been a tremendous team effort, and I am so proud that NIFRS was there to respond as we always do when needed.

Thank-You.

 (Photos courtesy of Aerial Vision)

 

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