Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue make good use of disused college facilities

Firefighters have been heading back to college in Wisbech to take up a unique training opportunity at the College of West Anglia.

The crew from Wisbech Fire Station turned the former C Block at the college site, on Ramnoth Road, into a training ground during the past few months to deliver challenging exercise scenarios to test firefighters from across the county.

The site was chosen as it is due for demolition over the coming months and at the time of proposal was not being used. It was also a large and complicated design with many unusual features that offered the chance to conduct many different training scenarios for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service staff.

Staff from Wisbech Fire Station and the College of West Anglia health and safety department worked closely together to ensure that guidelines and procedures were put in place to enable the use of the college buildings and to provide extremely valuable training opportunities for firefighters from Wisbech and other stations across Cambridgeshire.

Wisbech Station Commander Brett Mills said: “The day crew identified an excellent training opportunity using their local knowledge and networking. This supported vital critical safety training for both whole-time and on-call firefighters. I would like to thank Firefighter Gary Reach, Crew Commander Clive Griffin from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, and Richard Heron and Amanda Marshall from the College Of West Anglia for their hard work in organising this and continuing the excellent partnership working between CFRS and CWA.”

Various different ladder drills were conducted around the buildings as it offered different conditions and opportunities that cannot be replicated in the firefighters’ usual drill yard.  Breathing apparatus search and rescue drills were also conducted inside the building during both day and night time sessions.

The buildings were also used to hold an on-call training support day to provide further training for firefighters from across Cambridgeshire. During these sessions firefighters wore obscuration masks to replicate heavy smoke logging of the building without the college fire alarm system being affected.

The College of West Anglia is one of the largest providers of education and training in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire with an exceptional track record of developing the skills and talents of its students.

The Wisbech campus was transformed over the summer of 2015, following extensive investment to improve its facilities in the form of a £6.5million flagship learning building. This adds to the £7.2million technology centre, which opened in April 2013. Older buildings such as the C Block are now set for demolition as they are no longer fit for purpose.

The 1400m2 new teaching centre which opened in September, and 2000 m2 of refurbished space with its state-of-the-art teaching and IT facilities, is host to health & social care, hair & beauty in their brand new salons, foundation studies, computing, and uniformed and public services courses. There are also new facilities for teaching in English, maths and ESOL (English for speakers of other languages). The new main atrium entrance and reception area, teamed with the expansion of the restaurant, social areas and learning resource centre, is now a welcoming hub for students and staff alike.

Mark Reavell, Executive Director Partnerships at CWA, said: “We were pleased to be able offer the old buildings to the fire service for them to use as part of their training. It is understandably difficult for them to get access to facilities to carry out this sort of simulated exercise and it all seemed to work out perfectly prior to the start of demolition. We will however be pleased to see the old buildings disappear forever!"