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Heat waves, blizzards, acid attacks, and poisonous spiders - a year of extremes for Suffolk firefighters

PUBLISHED: 13:38 15 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:38 15 September 2018

Field fires were a regular feature of this summer's hot weather Picture: SFRS

Field fires were a regular feature of this summer's hot weather Picture: SFRS


Suffolk fire incident data has revealed the scale of challenges faced by the service during a year of extremes, which veered from snow chaos to raging fires.

The Freedom of Information data released by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, details every call-out in the 12 months to July 31.

During that period, firefighters dealt with 7,400 incidents, including major blazes at Cycle King store in Bury St Edmunds and Sackers Recycling Centre in Great Blakenham last September, as well as a flat above a newsagents in Halesworth.

The Beast from the East brought its own challenges for crews who were tasked with helping people affected by the chaos during a period of sub-zero temperatures in late February and early March.

On March 1 alone, firefighters responded to some 44 incidents - more than twice the daily average – including fallen trees, road accidents, and recovering vehicles – including two ambulances – which were stuck in the snow

Scenes from the Cockfield field fire in Bury St Edmunds  Picture: SUFFOLK FIRE & RESCUEScenes from the Cockfield field fire in Bury St Edmunds Picture: SUFFOLK FIRE & RESCUE

Summer brought extremes at the other end of the scale, when warm, dry weather led to a huge rise in fires across the country.

Throughout July, when conditions were at their most challenging, firefighters responded to some 1,117 call-outs involving 1,975 fire engines – more than double the activity in most other months of the year.

While fires accounted for 1,915 of the incidents over the 12 months - around a quarter of the total – the data logs indicate how many other varied roles the firefighters take on during the course of their duties.

Some 371 reports related to road traffic collisions and a further 750 were logged as “special service”, including animal rescues or dealing with hazardous materials. The most frequent reason for a call, however, was for false alarms, which accounted for 2,462 of the reports – around a third.

The 'Beast from the East' brought its own challenges for the fire service Picture: BEN CRANEThe 'Beast from the East' brought its own challenges for the fire service Picture: BEN CRANE

More detailed call log entries give a harrowing indication of the often dangerous and traumatic work faced by firefighters.

Crews attended three “acid attacks”, one “electrocution” and several suicide attempts.

There were also frequent calls to assist other emergency services, including at least 11 cases of helping to extract “bariatric”, or overweight patients.

Some of the more unusual data entries included a “crow in a tree”, “dog in haystack” “kitten stuck in a wall” and “poisonous spider” as well as the seemingly obvious “hot cooker”.

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