VIDEO: Ambersham blaze highlights need for specialist vehicles

A BLAZE which ripped across three acres of heathland on Ambersham Common has highlighted the importance of specialist firefighting vehicles.

And now West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (WSFRS) is bringing in even more specialised 4x4s and changing the way it mobilises retained firefighting crews.

Midhurst's 4x4 at the fire

Midhurst's 4x4 at the fire

On Thursday, retained crews from Midhurst and Petworth were in action 
on Ambersham Common where a controlled burn had got out of hand.

The blaze spread uphill and firefighters had to get to the heathland some half a mile from a country lane near Heyshott.

The crews used 4x4s with water tanks from Midhurst, Petworth and Chichester and a water carrier to get to the fire across rough and 
sloping terrain.

They fought the blaze using three hose reels, beaters and water-sprayers as the smoke swirled around them, constantly changing direction in the wind.

“As it was shown at Ambersham, the 4x4 vehicles currently used are already often better equipped than traditional engines to deal with incidents like rough terrain in rural areas, snow, floods or difficult to access areas in built-up urban conurbations,” said Claire Byrd, spokesman for WSFRS,

Now a number of 4x4s are to be replaced with much-higher-specification vehicles including ultra-high-pressure firefighting systems, road traffic collision and first aid equipment, dry suits and rescue rafts.

They will not replace the second engines being removed from Midhurst and Petworth, but are intended to increase flexibility.

But a new fire engine has been bought for Midhurst which will carry more water, has a compressed air foam system and more powerful hose capabilities.

Other changes mean if more firefighters are available after the first fire engine has gone out, they will automatically crew the 4x4 to support the first engine, as these can be deployed with less crew than a standard engine.

“This will ensure we get as many crew as possible to the scene of an incident quickly,” said Claire.