Roll up, roll up for animal rescue training with a difference!
Date published: 19 July 2012
Firefighters from Heywood Fire Station were given a once in a lifetime opportunity when they were invited train at the circus.
White Watch crews swapped the large plastic horse which they usually train with for a variety of real-life circus animals including zebras, lamas, camels and reindeers.
The crews had visited Circus Mondeo in Heywood a couple of weeks ago to carry out a safety check and highlight any hazards on the site which could pose a danger to operational crews.
When they arrived, the firefighters got chatting to the owner of the circus and the ring mistress, telling the two ladies about the animal training which all Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) crews are required to carry out on a basic level.
The crews also explained that Heywood is one of just two stations in the organisation with specialist large animal and water rescue teams and carry out more advances training on a regular basis.
These teams are called out to any large animal rescue, usually involving water, where human life could be put in danger.
Watch Manager Mark Bamford, from Heywood White Watch, said: "After collating all the information as to what hazards were on site at Circus Mondeo, we began to build up a really good rapport the circus people explaining the work we do with animals.
"Then they invited us to get involved with the animals which included zebras, camels, lamas, reindeers and horses of various sizes.
"We incorporated this into our animal rescue training which took place over two days - it was a thoroughly educational experience and also one which was probably a once in a lifetime experience, giving ops crews a better understanding of the characteristics and mannerisms of various animals."
The firefighters were able to use the animal rescue equipment off the Water Incident Unit and were also given alternative methods to achieve what was required.
As a bonus, the crews also completed 11 Home Safety Checks in the sleeping trailers of the travelling community associated with the circus.
Crews from Heywood and Eccles - who specialise in large animal rescues - train regularly in all weather conditions to prepare for any eventuality.
Austin Lewis, GMFRS' Training and Development Centre, who delivers the animal rescue training, said: "When dealing with large animals there are a number of risks involved, both to the animal and the crews, and the general public if they are at the scene.
"The majority of our large animal incidents happen around water, or mud, or ice and there's usually a member of the public or a farmer around who has a close relationship to the animal so the crew has to keep them away from the animal for their own safety.
"We work with the RSPCA who have been on these courses and have an understanding of what we do, and BEVA (British Equine Veterinary Association) and we work to CFOA (Chief Fire Officers' Association) standards."
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