Suffolk fire service among a handful across the country to use new cutting edge equipment

Investment in state-of-the-art equipment and “forging ahead” with blue light collaboration has put Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) at the forefront of modern firefighting in Britain.

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Despite being one of the smallest in the country, the service has just invested in three appliances fitted with specialist Cobra cutting extinguishers and battery powered rescue equipment, described as “the next generation of kit”.

When these go online at fire stations in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft in the New Year, Suffolk will be one of only a handful of services across the UK to use the cutting-edge technology.

According to assistant chief fire officer Dan Fearn, they are also considering investing in a multi-agency drone to be used as an “eye in the sky” at incidents where it is not safe to assess incidents from the ground.

Meanwhile the new Cobra equipment, which has been trialled at SFRS’s Wattisham training ground, uses a mixture of water and a cutting agent ejected at high pressure through a special nozzle on a lance. It quickly cuts a small hole through all known building materials and enables firefighters to safely tackle fire and gases from the outside a building. If it proves successful, another eight fire engines in Suffolk could be retro-fitted with the technology.

In addition, up until now rescue equipment has been linked to a generator, but the battery powered alternative will be charged up on the appliance and will have multiple benefits according to Mr Fearn.

He said: “We will be one of the first fire services in the country to have a standard fire appliance with battery powered rescue equipment and Cobra.

“We believe that it will improve the way we are able to approach incidents in addition to improving firefighter safety.

“If we can get to an incident quicker, or help a member of the public in some way by using this equipment, then we are boosting the chances of anyone stuck in a vehicle at the same time as making it safer for the firefighters.”

A multi-agency group has also been established to look at the possible use of drones in Suffolk.

“If we could have one that would be of multi-agency use within Suffolk, it could be used as an eye in the sky at unsafe buildings or houses where we don’t want to commit a firefighter,” Mr Fearn continued.

Because of the speed at which the county has embraced blue light collaboration – with 10 of its fire stations now shared with either police or ambulance services, and another eight in the pipeline – the Government’s Home Office wants to use Suffolk as a case study.

As a result of the blue light collaboration work, the county has already established a shared community safety team with Suffolk County Council, Suffolk police and fire services alongside other voluntary and private sector organisations.

Mr Fearn added: “By the end of next year, half of the (fire) stations across the county will be collaborations.

“Suffolk has a good track record for the size of the service, and for the amount of Government grant we receive compared to others, we have used it really wisely.

“We have just been up to the Home Office and they want to use Suffolk as a case study because we have moved so quickly on blue light collaboration.

“For a small service, we are really forging ahead and doing much more than others.”

Work has just begun on the new shared facility in Felixstowe, Newmarket fire station will soon be extended to incorporate the ambulance service and in Stowmarket, a new station will be built that may also provide space for Babergh or Mid Suffolk councillors to work from.