High-rise training for Tyne and Wear firefighters after Grenfell Tower blaze

Westmorland Court
Westmorland Court

Tyne and Wear firefighters are to get special high-rise training in the wake of the Grenfell Tower blaze.

A partnership between South Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Homes and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service will provide a rare opportunity to train in a real life setting for the challenges presented by high rise buildings.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther

Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther

Westmorland Court in Hebburn, which is due for demolition, will be the site for live training exercises in a controlled environment.

High rise building fires are some of the most potentially dangerous situations firefighters have to deal with, presenting the greatest safety risk to local communities and to firefighters.

The buildings typically have complex layouts and present significant physical demands. Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service will use the building to train firefighting crews from across the area in a range of techniques and scenarios, including use of the latest firefighting technology, potentially reshaping firefighting procedures.

The exercise, which has been planned for more than a year, will also present an opportunity for local people in the surrounding area to learn more about fire safety and how to protect their family and their home from the risk of fire.

Coun Moira Smith

Coun Moira Smith

A co-ordinated campaign including key safety messages and what to do in the event of a fire will be conducted across the area.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther said: "This is a unique and valuable opportunity for firefighters to train in one of the most challenging and dangerous aspects of firefighting. The recent tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, West London has brought into sharp focus why this is type of exercise is so important.

"We have excellent training facilities at our service headquarters in Washington, but there is no substitute for training in a real environment. Our primary aim it to save lives in the event of fire, reducing risks to local people and to firefighters, and this opportunity will greatly assist with this."

Following the firefighting training exercises the site will be demolished to be redeveloped as part of the regeneration of Hebburn town centre.

Coun Moira Smith, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety on South Tyneside Council, said: "We have been working for over a year with the fire service to agree an exercise at this location, which is earmarked for future demolition.

"This is a rare and valuable opportunity for fire fighters to enhance their skills and ensure the safety and protection of our communities. Sadly, the recent events in London have highlighted why the ability to train in real life environments such as Westmorland Court is so vital.

"It is also an excellent opportunity to engage with local people and raise awareness of fire safety issues."

The training will take place over two weeks starting on Monday and running each afternoon from Monday to Friday from approximately 1.30-4.30pm.

Local residents and businesses should ensure that they continue to report any fire-related concerns – not connected to the exercise – through the appropriate emergency service channels.