Fast water rescue team has been a major asset during floods

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Our decision to set up a fast water specialist team a few years ago when flooding across the country was becoming more common was certainly an inspired one as the following year we were called out to assist with the first Cumbria major floods, writes David Dennis of the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association.

It was so good that we were able to put our equipment and intensive training into a real life saving situation in support of the other emergency services and indeed other mountain rescue teams from far and wide.

We didn’t of course expect to find ourselves back out a year later facing the enormity of the second Cumbria floods and within days back out much closer to home in York. Our expertise has of course gone to a very high level having been so involved in these dramatic and life threatening situations.

While reviewing our involvement we found areas where additional equipment would have increased our capability but having just spent £300,000 on upgrading our base, we could not afford to buy the kit and it was put onto our wishlist.

However, we are delighted to hear that we have just been given a Government grant of more than £10,000 from the Department for Transport as part of their five-year programme to support water rescue charities ranging from the lifeboat service to organisations like ours. It’s also very pleasing for our work to get recognition and practical support from the Government department.

Our swift water team leader, Staveley man Derek Hammond, reports on how we will make good use of the money.

“The grant will enable us to purchase additional equipment which will include a second larger evacuation raft and a further six sets of safety equipment for our swift water technicians,” he said.

“This will raise our potential number of members to this sub team to 18, which is such good news.

“Each set, costing around £900, includes a drysuit, personal floatation device, helmet and other equipment enabling our members to operate near fast flowing rivers or in flooded areas to search for and rescue people trapped by water.”

The swift water team, of course, all volunteered for this extra role and are still on call–out for our primary role throughout the Wharfedale, Nidderdale, Harrogate and Craven areas above and below ground as well as support other mountain rescue teams or emergency services during regional or national water incidents.

We are now a regular fixture at the annual Knaresborough Bed Race with our water section helping to provide safety cover on the river crossing, it’s a great fun day out for us and so enjoyable having an opportunity to talk to members of the public about our work.