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Message from, Bernard Dolan, to staff on 14 January 2005

Carlisle Floods

'The spate conditions that affected the whole of the county during last weekend and the early part of this week brought a magnificent response from all personnel, both operational and support staff, and that is reflected in the response that is beginning to come in both from the public and politicians.

As we move from the emergency response to recovery stage we will obviously publish more information including the thanks of the fire and rescue authority to all staff for the part that they played over the last few days.

The severe weather conditions which affected the county from the early evening of Friday 7 January with gales of 70 to 80 miles an hour and gusts of over 100 miles an hour mixed with over 200 millimetres of rain resulted in extensive flooding and storm damage throughout Cumbria and involved the fire and rescue service in extensive operations.

Spate conditions resulted in around 800 incidents being dealt with between approximately 1900 hours on 7 January up to Sunday 9 January.  Some were passed on to other agencies such as United Utilities and Highways but over 400 incidents were attended by fire and rescue service personnel within that 48 hour period.  The main issue dealt with was obviously the flooding which severely affected Carlisle, Appleby, Penrith, Keswick and Cockermouth with the fire and rescue service being involved in the evacuation of residents in the majority of those areas.

In addition to the flooding, extensive storm damage occurred throughout the whole of Cumbria during that period and this particularly affected the Barrow area and over 60 incidents were dealt with by fire and rescue service personnel.

Carlisle Floods

In terms of flooding, the main concentration of fire and rescue service resources has been concentrated on Carlisle with over 60,000 homes in the Carlisle and surrounding areas without electricity and 3,500 involved in flooding which has affected approximately 6,000 residents.

The Warwick Road and Denton Holme areas of Carlisle were severely affected with levels of water around 5 to 7 feet.  Other areas of the city were also involved, including the Fire and Police Stations.  A temporary fire station has been set up at Carlisle Castle but obviously this is not a long term option.  The Client Services Property Unit and Capita are on site at Carlisle Fire Station with a view to resuming operations there as soon as possible.

The main operation during the weekend has been the rescue and evacuation of the public.  Fire and rescue service personnel have been committed in Carlisle on an ongoing basis since early evening on 7 January in this task and this continued through until the Monday.

A number of private boats were utilised by our personnel to carry out rescues and these operated in the initial stages alongside the Coastguard boats and a number of other boats operated by the public.  Cumbria Police requested that the fire and rescue service should co-ordinate the boat rescues and this was done at the forward control points, as far as possible in what were very difficult and dangerous circumstances.  Both Merseyside and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Services offered boats and crews to assist and this was accepted and they were on the scene and operating by early Saturday afternoon.  They have been a tremendous resource to us and were operating right through to Monday 10 January when the water levels began to recede.

It is impossible to say at this stage how many people the fire and rescue service have rescued, but it is a significant number.

Unfortunately two members of the public died in the flooded areas of Carlisleand with the casualty bureau set up there was an urgent need to carry out a search of the flooded areas to ensure that everyone was accounted for.  To achieve this, a systematic search of every house along Warwick Road and the side streets off was carried out by fire and rescue service personnel on behalf of the Police.  The evacuation of the public who had decided to stay in their houses, and who later changed their mind, continued through until the Sunday.

During these events we continued to deal with other incidents particularly storm damage, and in a separate incident just outside Carlisle on Saturday evening one male person was killed after a wall collapsed on to his caravan as a result of the high winds.  Fire and rescue service crews attended the scene and rescued one further casualty.  We also had to deal with a number of arson related car fires on 8 January in the Carlisle area.

Carlisle Floods

A major incident was declared early Saturday with Gold Command established at Police Headquarters, Penrith.   Silver Command was established at the Emergency Planning Unit and a Multi Agency Control room was set up at the Castle.  Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service have been represented at both locations with fire and rescue service operations controlled from the Command Room within the Fire Control at Fire Service Headquarters.

In liaison with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister the Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Bernard Dolan, took the decision to mobilise high volume pumping units from a central location in the Midlands to Cumbria on Sunday 9 January.  These are resources which the Government have provided following the terrorist events of 11 September to be utilised by the UK fire service where there is a need for high volume pumping following any terrorist incident, such as a dam breach.  They are capable of pumping 8,000 litres per minute and four units were mobilised to Cumbria.  These were utilised to good effect at Willowholme, both to protect the electrical sub station and also to pump out Willowholme sewerage works on an ongoing basis until the electricity supply could be reinstated as this was acting as a plug to the city in not allowing water to drain away.  A decision was taken on Monday 10 January to mobilise a further 6 units into Cumbria and 4 of these have been utilised in pumping in Hardwick Circus.

As these are new to the country and have not yet been deployed there is only a handful of trained personnel.   These were mobilised with the units and these personnel came from as far as Hampshire and Sussex.  We are particularly grateful to County Contracting for the support given to us in terms of fuel supplies in order to maintain these units.

The spate conditions did affect the whole of Cumbria and during the weekend Fire Control staff dealt with over 11,000 calls and at the height of operations 48 of the 50 front line fire appliances were deployed at varying stages.  The demand upon the Fire Control operators was immense and they dealt with the situation in a highly professional manner.  In addition, resources were also utilised from Northumberland and Dumfries and Galloway in order to deal with incidents close to the border.

The Fire and Rescue Service will continue to be involved in the recovery period and extensive debriefing of personnel will be carried out over the next few weeks.'

Carlisle flood video (high quality - 7.6Mb)
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Carlisle flood video (lower quality - 927Kb)
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