Firefighters blazing the trail of new technology

WIGAN’S firefighers are among the first in Britain to use a pioneering piece of kit designed to speed up battling blazes and increase safety.

The Wigan Evening Post was invited to the station in Newtown to try out the cutting-edge extinguisher that pierces through walls and doors to target flames as never before.

Wigan Evening Post reporter Greg Farrimond testing the new hose

Wigan Evening Post reporter Greg Farrimond testing the new hose

It is now in operation with officers trained up to use the pump which sees little pieces of metal filtered into the water to enable it to cut through strong materials.

Wigan’s firefighters gave us an exclusive look at exactly how it can be used, including battling vehicle infernos and getting access to properties quicker.

The technology, from Sweden, uses a combination of water and cutting agent which is ejected through a special nozzle at extremely high pressure.

It rapidly cuts through materials including wood, metal and even stone cavity walls to deposit water onto building fires.

This can reduce the temperature inside from up to 700 degrees to around 85 degrees in a matter of seconds compared with traditional firefighting techniques which can expose firefighters to extreme heat for up to 20 minutes to deal with similar types of incidents.

New, bigger hose reels – which produce three times the amount of water than the current ones – are also being introduced along with new thermal imaging scanners and improved fans that have been in use for a number of months now to make firefighting more effective.

Wigan station manager Jim Bridge said: “This has something that has come from Scandinavia where a lot of firefighting technology has been developed.

“It aids firefighter safety. One of our corporate aims is to make sure that we can fight fire in the safest manner possible and this is part of the investment into that.

“It’s a commitment from the brigade to invest in new technology, new techniques and the training of firefighters to use it.

“They will help with very secure premises we struggled to get into, domestic premises and one of the main places where it might be useful is derelict or dilapidated premises where there might be holes in floors or other dangers within the buildings.

“So when the floors collapse we can still fight the fire externally.”

Although firefighters at Wigan have had no need to use the equipment, they demonstrated their capabilities in using it should the need to arise.

They have also trained in real-life situations to ensure they are fully comfortable with it.

Jim added: “We work quite closely with our partners at Wigan Council and we have identified properties that are derelict or due for demolition.

“We’ve had agreements with the Council that we can uses those premises. For example we can use The Pines care home in Kitt Green, which is due for demolition, as a more real circumstance than just out on the yard.

“What we will do there is use the equipment in a realistic circumstance without actually starting a fire.

“We’re all ready to embrace the new techniques and new equipment. It’s quite an impressive tool.”

Later in the year, GMFRS will be introducing a brighter, layered fire uniform which is based on a model from Sweden.

The kit – provided by Bristol Limited – is much brighter than GMFRS has had before because it’s designed for use on roadways, especially at road traffic collisions.

The new Ultra-High Pressure Lance is just one of the innovative pieces of equipment being introduced at GMFRS as part of a huge project which looks into the future of firefighting.

Chair of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, Coun David Acton, said: “This is an extremely exciting project and fire and rescue services across the UK are looking at GMFRS with great interest as we put the lance into action alongside a range of other innovative firefighting methods.

“Over the next few months, all our frontline fire engines will be fitted with the lance, which will provide a much safer environment for firefighters and limit the water damage often caused by traditional techniques.”