Team takes part in major training exercise with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service

This morning, at the very early hour (No Sunday lie in!) of 07.45hrs fifteen Bolton MRT members assembled at our Ladybridge Hall Base / HQ in Bolton, to depart for a scheduled 08.15hrs briefing at GMFRS Broughton Fire Station, in Salford, in regards to taking part in a major GMFRS exercise.

Bolton MRT long serving and very experienced team member Chris Greenhalgh, is an operational GMFRS Fire Fighter based at Broughton Fire Station, and he had originally been approached to see if the team could provide some ‘exercise casualties’ for this GMFRS exercise.

The specific requirements called for some of the Bolton MRT volunteer casualties to be in or on the banks of the River Irwell, so our specialist water trained and equipped personnel were required.

We deployed to the exercise in all four of our Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulances and our 3.5 metre semi rigid inflatable SAR boat.

Tea and toast and ‘milling around’ so typical of exercises (Mountain Rescuers are experts at ‘milling around’) followed our arrival at Broughton Fire Station as multiple GMFRS assets and resources started arriving for the briefing.

A number of scenarios were played out, involving rescuing ‘casualties’ from within the River Irwell and on the steep slopes of its bankings in the area of the exercise.

The exercise itself took place on the section of the River Irwell, from the Race Course Hotel in Lower Kersal, downriver to the very steep sided and densely wooded area known as ‘The Cliff,’ overlooking the former Manchester Race Course site on the large meander of the River Irwell.

The Bolton MRT supplied all the ‘exercise casualties’ for today, including water dry suit equipped Andy Kench (When not in the team, he is an RSPCA Inspector and a very experienced member of their National Flood Response Team) and Nick Berry, who played the part of ‘wet casualties,’ ie they had to be in the water.

‘Dry casualties,’ were played by Bolton MRT members Dave Cook and Alan James, who had to be rescued from the steep bankings of the River Irwell following a search element of the exercise.

Putting these members in place, and acting as a ‘Safety crew’ for them, was our Deputy Team Leader Geoff Seddon (A Kayaker / Canoeist / experienced boat cox) and Ged Clarke, who both operated our 3.5m semi rigid inflatable SAR Boat. (Team member Chris Tennant assisted with the boat launching and bankside communications)

All search operations and rescue / recoveries were conducted by GMFRS personnel, which include team friend and GMFRS USAR Dog Handler Mike Dewar.
Providing overhead support and reconnaissance was the North West Air Operations Group (Police) helicopter, from the GMP Air Support Unit, which remained on scene for a large part of the mornings exercise.

Held in reserve at GMFRS Broughton Fire station, were Bolton MRT team members, Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE, Ken Oakes, Neil Aspinall, Samantha McKay, Craig Lamb, Martin Banks, Tony Dawson, and Steve O’Hara.

Their involvement in the exercise was curtailed when they had to deploy at 11.20hrs to Incident 72-2012, for a missing person search in Boggart Hole Clough, Blackley.

Our exercise casualty group remained behind, as they were obviously an intrinsic element of the GMFRS exercise, and at the exercise conclusion, all deployed directly to the search incident at Boggart Hole Clough.

The team welcomes joint training opportunities of this nature, and is willing to attend when team circumstances and other commitments allow.

The team would like to thank GMFRS Broughton Fire Station, Station Commander Mark Turner for his role in organising this exercise and for his kind invitation to attend this exercise, alongside his enthusiasm for multi agency working with the Bolton MRT.

It may interest our readers to know we have operated in this same exercise area of the River Irwell and its banksides and associated meadows, on a number of missing person searches, body recovery operations and rescues over the years.