Major Joint Exercise with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service

The whole team took place today in a major exercise organised by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service at the invitation of GMFRS.

The exercise organised by Blue Watch Manager, Bury Fire Station, Alan Topping and his colleague Blue Watch, Bury Fire Station Firefighters, brought together major multiple resources within GMFRS and colleague agencies.

The aim of the exercise was to test the GMFRS approach and ability, combined with a multi agency response, to a water incident through several scenario based exercises.

The objectives of the exercise included;

  1. To rescue various casualties through a number of separate scenarios at different locations, whilst adhering to all relevant fire service operational policies and procedures.
  2. Test the resources available for GMFRS at this type of incident.
  3. Inter agency liaison between GMFRS, GMP, Bolton Mountain Rescue Team and other associated agencies.
  4. Test procedures in place involving a multi agency approach to a water incident and other related rescues (Rope Rescue)

The exercise took place on the River Irwell and the valley of the River Irwell from Warth Bridge, Radcliffe Road, Redvales, Bury, downriver to Nob End, Little Lever. (This whole stretch of the River Irwell and its valley is well known to the Bolton MRT both from operational call outs and as the location of training exercises)

All of the exercise location area / areas lay within the operational area of the Bolton Mountain Rescue Team.

The team membership initially met at our Ladybridge Hall Base / HQ at 09.00hrs this morning, deploying in convoy (Well that was the intention!) to the Phoenix street, off Sion Street, Radcliffe, Exercise RVP, arriving at circa 10.00hrs.

Getting our priorities right and amidst much shuffling around of our vehicles and others deployed to the exercise, our Catering Trailer was soon up and running, with hot drinks and the first of a multitude of bacon and sausage barms served throughout the exercise being served up.

Fire service, GMP and Bolton MRT personnel receive the exercise briefing from the organisers prior to the commencement of the exercise.

The exercise commenced with an overall welcome and introduction from Watch Manager Alan Topping, GMFRS Bury Fire Station, followed by a Safety Brief and an outline of the ’Rules of Play.’

No sooner had this ended, when the Bolton MRT was presented with a missing person search scenario from the GMP Specialist Search Team Officers present, (Including PC Tony Cregan, a former RAFMRS member from RAFMRT Stafford and Leuchars)

Our members at this stage were deployed within the Exercise GMFRS Command Team, our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE undertaking this task, with our resources available to the exercise under the control of our ’Control Team’ of Bob Hutchinson (A former Bolton MRT Team Leader), Diane Blakeley and Louise Jorgensen with Paul Brain providing IT and GPS Tracking Support)

A section of the banks of the Irwell is searched by personnel on the exercise.

Other members were deployed within the Water Search and Rescue Team (8x) Four Search and Rescue Parties, each able to work independently (26x) Trainee Dog Team (2x plus Trainee Mountain Rescue Trail Dog Boris) and Catering Support (2x). Support Group member Iain Clarkson being one of the many ’exercise casualties.’

16x Bolton MRT searchers were deployed in our BM1 and BM5 vehicles together with our Water Search and Rescue Unit (7x plus driver) in our Deputy Team Leaders vehicle and BM4, to the exercise search area alongside the River Irwell including the Outwood Sidings area.

Exercise scenarios were then presented to the GMFRS Incident Command Officers running the overall exercise, the first of six throughout the day, (Exclusive of the Missing Person search scenario we had first been deployed to) which immediately led to the deployment of Fire, MRT and GMP resources to all manner of incidents on the River Irwell and its adjacent frequently very steep and wooded valley sides.

Equipment is unloaded from a Bolton MRT Land Rover at the scene of a mock incident

Operating on and in the River Irwell at various times were Fire Service Water Incident Units (Boats and Floating Rescue Sledges) from GMFRS, Cheshire FRS and Lancashire FRS, in addition to our own Water search and Rescue Unit. (Boat and one canoe)

The Bolton MRT Water Search & Rescue Unit at the location of another mock incident on this exercise.

At various times throughout the day our team members were deployed directly with Fire Service resources to numerous exercise incident sites, with considerable joint working very much the order of the day.

Our ’real time’ GPS tracking of our vehicles and team members, linked to a lap top in our Control and Communications Trailer was vital to this exercise, spread as it was over a large area.

By circa 15.30hrs, the whole exercise was completed, with a Strategic Command Team Hot Debrief taking place (Which our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE attended) in the company of the Command team, Incident Site Commanders and the GMFRS Exercise Assessor.

This was followed by a short ’End Ex’ thanks from Overall Organiser Alan Topping, and then the dispersal of all assets and organisations present.
(Our Team Leader has been invited to the GMFRS Full Debrief meeting, to be arranged shortly)

The following resources were known to be directly involved in this major exercise. (Please note this listing may not be complete)


  • Mobile Incident Control Unit.
  • Water Rescue Unit from Eccles Fire Station. (Semi Rigid Inflatable Rescue Boat)
  • Pump Appliances from Broughton, Eccles, Bolton North (Crompton Way), Ramsbottom, Agecroft, Radcliffe, Rochdale, Farnworth and Bury Fire Stations.
  • Fire Search and Rescue USAR Dog Unit (Handler Mick Dewar and Fire Search and Rescue Dog Echo)
  • Two ’Exercise Casualties,’ from the Community Action Team.
  • Exercise Incident Sites Safety Officers and Observers.
  • Senior Incident Command Officers.


  • Water Rescue Unit and one Pump Appliance in support of the WRU. (Semi Rigid Inflatable Rescue Boat)


  • Water Rescue Unit and one Pump Appliance in support of the WRU. (Semi Rigid Inflatable Rescue Boat)


  • Mobile Catering Unit, with attending crew.


  • Specialist Search Unit; Three Officers (All Missing Person Search Managers / POLSAs)
  • (Bury) Divisional Officers.
  • Police Community Support Officers.


  • Four Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulance Vehicles, ’Bolton Mobile 1,2,3,4.’
  • One Team Minibus Vehicle.
  • Catering Trailer Unit.
  • Control and Communications Trailer Unit.
  • 3.5 metre Semi Rigid Inflatable Search and Rescue Boat.
  • 1x Large Canoe.
  • 40x Operational Call Out List members.
  • 5x Support Group members.
  • Trainee Mountain Rescue Trail Dog Boris.


  • Land Rover Discovery Mountain Rescue Ambulance vehicle, 1x crew member (Peter Goble- RPMRT Training Officer / Deputy Team Leader) Acting as an Exercise Incident Site Safety Officer / Observer.


  • One ’Exercise Casualty.’


  • Chris Rickson, (A work colleague of our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE and a regular volunteer ’exercise casualty’ for the Bolton MRT)
  • Professor David Brigden, (A Professor of Anatomy at Wrexham Hospital and a work colleague of our Team Training Officer Elaine Gilliland)

All of our members involved welcomed the opportunity to take part in this major exercise, which saw all its aims and objectives met, and all the exercise casualties successfully recovered from a variety of mainly water and steep ground environments.

Overall for our part, we were fully occupied right from the start to the end of the exercise, with tasking following tasking, resulting in a very intensive time for all our members, including everyone from our Caterers, to Controllers to those at the ’sharp end’ actually working alongside their colleague Fire and Police Service Officers to effect all the various exercises presented to them.
The multi agency / mutual joint working approach to each of the (Overall) seven exercise scenarios that were played out was very much in evidence, and worked very well throughout the exercise.

Given the very large number of GMFRS resources and personnel deployed to this exercise it also presented to our team a fantastic opportunity to showcase what the team is capable of, and to further develop relationships with our GMFRS (And LFRS / CFRS / GMP) colleagues.

All Bolton MRT members attending would like to extend their full thanks to Blue Watch Manager Alan Topping and his Blue Watch colleagues at Bury Fire Station for organising a very interesting exercise, which kept all attending Bolton MRT members fully occupied throughout the exercise duration.

Finally nearing the end of the exercise, an RTC on nearby Sion Street, Radcliffe was witnessed by one of the Bolton MRT parties involved in the exercise. Bolton MRT, Rossendale and Pendle MRT, and GMP resources immediately responded, but thankfully no persons involved were injured, and the MRT involvement in the end was minimal. (This has not been recorded within our Incident Listings and is mentioned here for information only).