Firefighters board Russian ship to tackle blaze as part of Exercise Poseidon

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service tackle a simulated fire on a 3,000-tonne Russian ship moored

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service tackle a simulated fire on a 3,000-tonne Russian ship moored at Wisbech harbour as part of Exercise Poseidon. - Credit: Archant

There were dramatic scenes in Wisbech last week as firefighters tackled a blaze aboard a 3,000-tonne Russian ship moored in the town’s harbour.

But not to worry – the overnight event was part of a training exercise – aptly named Exercise Poseidon – which brought together the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service and Fenland District Council.

A group of 25 firefighters were tasked with locating and gaining access to the ship’s engine room, where the fire was located, before extinguishing it and carrying out a search and rescue operation.

Firefighters used an inflatable boat to locate and rescue three dummy casualties in the water, working alongside two crews from the harbour authority.

On-board operations took place in dark, narrow passageways with one room filled with smoke and a number of trip hazards.

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Harbour Master Jamie Hemming and two other council staff members were also closely involved on shore.

Held last Wednesday evening, Poseidon was the CFRS’s first in-county training exercise on board a ship. It involved crews from Wisbech, Huntingdon and Dogsthorpe as well as two from Outwell and West Walton in Norfolk.

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Watch Commander Phil Pilbeam, from Wisbech Fire Station, said: “I’m really pleased with how things went. It all went really smoothly.

“A ship fire is unique. It’s in a confined space, it’s made of metal and it’s a lot hotter because it’s a metal container.

“Ships have an unfamiliar layout to crews. They can be very complex in their layout and this was a unique opportunity for all the crews to attend and to put these different skills into practice.”

Harbour Master Jamie Hemming said that with about 40 cargo ships arriving at Wisbech Port each year, training exercises like this were really helpful.

“We are the only Port in Cambridgeshire so for Wisbech a fire on a ship is a serious scenario. So from that point of view it was good to see the teams from the fire service and the Council’s marine services working together on something a little bit out of their comfort zone.”

Cllr Ralph Butcher, whose portfolio for growth includes the Port, and who is also a member of the Cambridgeshire Fire Authority, said: “I’d love to have attended myself but I was recovering from a hip operation. Unfortunately, that meant I couldn’t make it but I was very pleased to hear it had all gone so well.

“It was reassuring for us as a Harbour Authority to see the whole thing coordinated in such a professional and timely manner. It will stand us all in good stead should a similar real incident occur.

“We would like to continue to take a proactive approach and so will continue to work with the fire service on similar exercises related to the Port.”

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