Community safety partnership manager Jo Oliver from Buckinghamshire Fire &
Rescue Service said: “We and our partner organisations don’t tend to think of the members of our farming, equine
or agricultural communities as being vulnerable, but they are definitely a group that we find hard to reach and don’t
often come into contact with other than at barn, farm or field fires.
“There is lots of information out there, but nothing is in one easy location
for them to find. This pack is the first part of a plan to help people from our rural communities gain access to information
that can help them and is specific to their needs, in a format that is easy for them to use.”
In the second initiative, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has begun
a joint initiative with local horse welfare charity, The Horse Trust, and Thames Valley Horsewatch, to help ensure that firefighters
are better prepared if called to help a large animal in difficulty.
Firefighters are sometimes called out by concerned owners and members of the
public to help rescue animals that have got into difficult situations, and national guidelines are currently being set up
to ensure best practice procedures are used nationally.
The joint initiative was developed to ensure that firefighters have the skills,
training and equipment they need to maximise their own safety and minimise the risk of further injury to the animals they
are called to help.
Area Manager Denis O’Driscoll, who heads up Buckinghamshire Fire &
Rescue Service’s Operational Response Department, said: "Although we do not receive a large number of these types of
calls, we know that there will be occasions where we will need to undertake this kind of activity. As a result, we need to
ensure that we are adequately prepared and equipped to deal with these incidents and we are grateful to The Horse Trust for
the support and assistance that they are providing. This is a good example of an increasing number of joint initiatives and
collaborations that Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is engaged in that will provide real benefits to our local communities."
Among the large animals Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is asked
to assist are horses, usually those who have got themselves stuck in ditches, stables or cattle grids, but also to horses
trapped in overturned trailers on roads or motorway.
It is also possible that firefighters could be called to a fire at an equestrian
yard or stables. When trapped in unusual conditions, any animal is likely to become frightened, which can make a situation
more dangerous both for the animal and firefighters.
The Horse Trust has provided horse-handling training to members of operational
staff from Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service. During evening sessions at The Horse Trust’s stables in Speen,
firefighters from Great Missenden and Winslow were taught about animal behaviour and awareness, as well as how to approach
and catch horses safely.
Paul Jepson, Chief Executive of The Horse Trust, said: “With over 100
horses, ponies and donkeys here at the sanctuary, we are very aware of the real risk of fire and regularly have drills to
remind our staff of the process of evacuating the stables at speed with safety foremost in the minds of our staff and horses. Over the years, a number of our geriatric horses have got themselves stuck under fences
and become distressed as they have been unable to stand up, so we understand the importance of horse handling knowledge when
dealing with these situations.”
The Horse Trust has also given Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service a
grant of £11,636 to enable them to buy the specialist equipment needed for the rescues.
The specialist animal rescue teams will be formally launched later in the year.
Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue: www.bucksfire.gov.uk
The Horse Trust (www.horsetrust.org.uk) is the oldest horse charity in the world, originally established back in 1886 to help the working horses in London. Its
expanding welfare department has a number of initiatives underway which will provide tangible welfare benefits to horses in
our area and their owners, as well as emergency service and partner organisation personnel. These include provision of specialist
horse training which will prepare and equip emergency responders to deal safely with horse encounters and increase safety
for all present at the scene.
Thames Valley Horsewatch (www.thamesvalleyhorsewatch.org.uk) is a Thames Valley Police initiative to combat equine crime and aims to raise awareness of equine crime and improve communication
and security among horse owners and riders.