We can cope say crews

THE Evening Star spent a second night on watch with the crews of the Green Goddesses based in Ipswich.Georgina Wroe reports how the troops are dealing with being replacement firefighters.

"WE can cope."

That was today's verdict from Suffolk's Goddess crews after their second night tackling incidents including a dramatic rescue operation.

As fire fighters threaten more strike action, the rookie crews have proved themselves despite ageing equipment and lack of experience.

A Green Goddess from Ipswich joined forces with retained firefighters from Norfolk to cut free a driver after his car span out of control on the B1111 near Thetford.

The car landed on its roof in a field near Barningham just after midnight, trapping the lone driver, a 24-year-old man from the area, in its mangled wreckage.

The rescue team from Ipswich, first on the scene, was happy to hand over control to the retained fire fighters when they arrived.

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The driver was taken to hospital. His condition is described as being in a "stable".

Flying Officer Mike Barclay said: "The Ipswich rescue team was first on the scene followed by a Green Goddess. They held the fort until a team of retained fire fighters from Norfolk took over. It was a successful operation."

The second night of strike action proved altogether more testing for the stand-in military crews.

Flying Officer Barclay added: "It's gone very well. We have shown we can cope. We were most impressed by the way the teams have worked with the retained fire fighters."

The night's only serious hoax call came from Hadleigh, a town plagued by arson attacks in recent months, when a Goddess cranked into action to attend a reported coffee-maker fire.

But when the crew got to the home in Timperley Road the call turned out to be malicious.

Earlier in the evening Goddess crews went head to head with non-striking retained fire fighters, when both were called to separate car fires.

But whereas the retained crew took just 12 minutes to put out a blazing vehicle in Haverhill, the military crew recorded a stop time of an hour and a half when they were called to a car fire in Great Cornard.

But an MoD spokeswoman said: "We got the call at 10.15pm and the first record we have of a stop call is at 11.50pm. Although I'm pretty sure it didn't take that long to put it out. We just don't have a record of when they stopped."

The RAF team, based at Ipswich's Territorial Army HQ in Yarmouth Road, got their first call to action at 9.46pm to Liquid night club after a report that a fire alarm had gone off.

When the six-man team, made up of fighters from Wittering-based 37th Squadron, arrived at the club they discovered it was a false alarm although they are not treating it as malicious.

The Cambridge-based MoD control room covering all East Anglia's six counties called the night "busy" with emergency calls tailing off after midnight.

A spokesman said: "We have had a couple of days to get used to it and we are all slightly better prepared and more in the swing of things now. It's the British way to cope under pressure."

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