Lancashire’s fire service is leading the way in developing groundbreaking technologies which have saved lives across the county.
Drones, stingers that can shoot water up to 80m and a new hi-tech training facility have all recently been added to Lancashire Fire and Rescue’s arsenal.
And at a time of austerity, where Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has been forced to make around £18m of cuts to its operating budget since 2011, bosses say they make no apologies for the investment, which has already prevented several deaths.
Justin Johnston, Deputy Chief Fire Officer for LFRS, said: “We have been through many years of austerity and a lot of the developments and innovation have been driven by this.
“The stinger, for example, has been a significant investment for the fire service, but it speeds up response times and reduces the amount of time we need to stay at an incident for. Ultimately this helps to save resources.
“Expensive in itself isn’t a bad thing, it’s about delivering on that expense.”
The pioneering Stinger technology, which has been trialled for the last 12 months, is said to cost around £460,000 and the LFRS is currently the only service in the country to benefit from this technology..
The Stinger, which was developed in association with Rosenbauer UK, serves as a regular fire engine and deals with house fires, road traffic collisions and the range of emergencies.
But in addition, it is able to jet water a distance of 80 metres onto a fire from a maximum height of 16.5 metres. It can also deliver around 4,000 litres of water a minute directly onto a fire - the equivalent of around thirty seven and a half bath tubs.
It has a hydraulically-powered “Stinger” spike mounted on the articulated boom of the appliance which can drive through slates, tiles and other building composites, spraying water jets directly onto the fire.
Justin Johnston said: “Trialling the Stinger at Blackburn proved the worth of an innovative design, delivering outstanding performance at the incidents it has been assigned to and fully justifying our belief in the importance of keeping abreast of changing technologies.
“Following the successful trial period we purchased the prototype Stinger, which has remained at Blackburn Fire Station. A second Stinger is on order, to be based in another part of the County, as yet to be decided.”
In 2016 a military grade drone was bought by the LFRS and Lancashire Police at a cost of around £60,000.
The drone – an Aeryon Skyranger – is one of the most advanced in the world and features a high-definition zoom lens, Infra-Red vision and day and night flying ability.
Fire services revealed that the drone is used almost on a daily basis to help search for missing people and had been directly responsible for saving three people’s lives.
In November 2017 the drone located a missing 73-year-old dementia patient who was suffering from hypothermia and other injuries. Paramedics estimated he had about an hour to live when the crew found him in Freckleton.
Assistant Fire Chief Justin Johnston said: “The partnership with Lancashire Constabulary to operate a drone has proved its worth time and time again at a number of major fires and missing person incidents.
“We are the first Fire and Rescue Service to locate a missing person using the drone, which is a great accolade and further endorses the wisdom of investing in new resources.”
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service says that overall these new additions showcase it as a leader in training facilities.
The addition of the drone and the Stinger, they add, makes Lancashire a safer place to live, work and visit.
Gallery Three - Multi-compartment Training Prop
As well as investing in new technology to use in emergencies, LFRS also has new state-of-the-art training facilities.
The multi-compartment live fire prop, also known as Gallery Three, was launched by LFRS in September 2017.
This is a suite of metal shipping containers put together to create a multi-roomed, multi-level building which enables trainers to carry out realistic, safe and repeatable fire scenarios for trainees.
Gallery Three cost around £367,000 to develop but bosses at the fire service say it has enabled over 1,000 firefighters to become much more effective in putting fires out and rescuing casualties.
Training Manager Mark Warwick said: “We can control the conditions and make them how we want them to look. For example we can simulate what it looks like when there’s a back-draft scenario.
“We want to make sure our firefighters’ competency is on point at all times and the only way we can do that is to bring them in and assess them.
“Gallery Three helps us to make sure that our guys know what they’re doing in realistic training facilities.
“It has been a god-send to us to be honest, and it’s only just developing and evolving - it’s been exactly what we want it to be.”