A team of Oxfordshire firefighters prepared for a national competition by practicing car crash rescues at a scrapyard near Banbury yesterday (Monday, September 24).
The abundance of old cars and the ability to position them to replicate an accident means Smiths of Bloxham is the ideal place for the team to train.
The group of six from will be competing at the UK Rescue Organisation (UKRO) Caerdydd Challenge against more than 200 firefighters from across the UK in Cardiff on Friday and Saturday (September 28 and 29).
The Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service team leader Chris Barber said: “We’re taking every opportunity to train when we can, at work and in our own time, and we’re determined to give it our best shot.
“What we learn as we prepare for the Cardiff challenge will translate into how we respond to real collisions on the road, hopefully making Oxfordshire a safer place.
“Community support for our team has been fantastic. We’ve got great relationships with local scrapyards, like Smiths of Bloxham, who help us to mock up vehicle smashes using scrap cars and van bodyshells.”
Other than Chris, who is based at the fire service’s headquarters, the team are all from Kidlington station: Mark de la Coze, 39, Chris Battle, 40, Justin Stanley, 40, Chris Aust, 41, and Paul Roberts, 39.
The UKRO Challenge is unrivalled for showcasing the incredible skills and commitment of emergency service personnel, with Oxfordshire’s crew regular entrants.
It replicates real-life scenarios in disciplines such as vehicle extrication, trauma care, urban search and rescue, and water rescue, with the crew marked on a range of criteria.
The practice sessions at Smiths’ base on Milton Road on the outskirts of Bloxham allow them to try a range of scenarios and techniques before the event.
Smiths of Bloxham provides the firefighters the ideal training ground with dozens of clapped-out old cars to turn into crash scenes and rip apart to rescue the person inside.
Tom Smith from the family-run business said it did not take much convincing to help the team practice as he knows how valuable their skills are.
“We all will need these people at one point or another in our lives, especially as up here we’ve had members of our family who have been saved by the fire service before so it’s beneficial to everyone in the local community that they can train here,” he said.
Smiths has a large range of vehicles for the firefighters to test their skills on, with the scrapyard open to them 24 hours a day should they need it.
The cranes and forklift trucks can manoeuvre the vehicles into any position, be it on their side or back, as well as being able to crush doors, to keep the team on their toes.
Tom said: “We can simulate any crash scenes with the facilities here and if they put a dummy in then we can simulate the crash with the weight of the impact and a variety of incidents.”
The team will use the challenge to hone their accident rescue skills, training with the latest hydraulic tools in readiness to access, release and remove ‘live casualties’ in a range of scenarios.
Having come third in the last two national contests, allowing them to compete on the world stage in Romania recently, the team wants to do as well as they can as they represent Oxfordshire.
“The standard is incredibly high, the standard in the UK is probably the highest in the world, so to be placed highly in the UK is a fairly sought-after position really,” Chris said.
“But as long as we can take those skills and bring them back into service and reflect that across the stations and cascade the things we’re learning, then I’ll be happy.”