NIFRS largest wildfire emergency training exercise held

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NORTHERN Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) recently held a major emergency wildland fire training exercise on Saturday 9 March across areas of County Antrim including Ballycastle and the Glens.

This was the largest live multi-agency wildland fire emergency training exercise held in Northern Ireland.

The training exercise, known as “Exercise Forest Flame” was designed to fully test NIFRS operational response, procedures and resilience, as well as the ability of multi-agencies to integrate and respond to a major uncontrolled wildfire incident across a large geographical area.

Chris Kerr, Chief Fire Officer, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) explains: “This major public safety enhancing exercise, involved over 210 people from a wide range of agencies and simulated spate conditions when major wildfire fires and multiple smaller wildfires occurred simultaneously across Co. Antrim, Fermanagh and Down, over a protracted period of time.

“Tackling gorse and wildland fires present extreme challenges for us as an emergency service. It means deploying Firefighters and their equipment, to usually quite remote locations, often for prolonged period of times, working under hazardous and intense heat to bring these fires under control.

“Gorse and wildfire fires put extra pressure on NIFRS resources. We only need to look back at the spate conditions in 2011 when between 15 April and 4 May 2011, we responded to 1,977 reports of gorse fires. During the May bank holiday of 2011, NIFRS received a call every 45 seconds – the busiest period in history. It is almost inevitable that Northern Ireland will undergo another period of spate wildfire conditions and therefore this exercise was an essential training initiative for our Firefighters and partnership agencies and will ensure we continue to build upon this type of operational response experience.

“There have been learning points for all of the agencies involved following this exercise. This will ultimately enhance interagency working between the emergency responders and enhance our capability in protecting our community. I want to reassure the public, that their fire and rescue service is well rehearsed and well prepared to protect our community during spate wildfire incidents.

“Exercise Forest Flame” ran on Saturday 9 March from 6am to 12noon.