Wickham Market: Fire service defends turntable ladder bird rescue

SUFFOLK Fire Service has defended sending life-saving equipment to rescue a bird trapped by a roof tile.

Firefighters freed what appeared to be a swift from the roof of a house in Wickham Market on Tuesday using one of the brigade’s two turntable ladders.

It comes two months after embarrassed fire chiefs were forced to review policies after five crews were sent to the aid of a cat stuck on a roof in Leiston.

Tuesday’s rescue saw a crowd of people gather to watch a firefighter lifted on a platform to release the bird from the top of the three-storey building in the village’s High Street.

They had been called by a member of the public who had spotted the bird at about 12.55pm and the two-strong crew completed the rescue shortly after 2pm. Eyewitness Anthony Burton said there was a round of applause as the bird flew off, seemingly unharmed.

Suffolk Fire Brigades Union (FBU) called the incident “a tad embarrassing” coming after the Leiston cat incident but said it was the type of rescue the service had always carried out.

In April, it was revealed how five crews, some from as far away at Bury St Edmunds, were sent to Leiston to a stranded cat in order to comply with new “working at height” health and safety regulations.

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Following the incident, chief officers quickly reviewed their policies and said they would not automatically send crews to rescue animals. Instead, a duty area officer would attend the scene and decide the appropriate response.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk Fire Service said this procedure was followed for Tuesday’s incident. “We had a call from a member of the public who had tried calling the RSPCA but they were unable to attend so they rang fire control.

“An officer was sent to assess the scene and requested the turntable ladder from Colchester Road (in Ipswich). Two fire crew members were on board and they released the bird. There was no charge for the call-out as it was an animal in distress.”

The incident only came to came to light after the Evening Star was contacted by a reader who had seen the incident.

It was not mentioned on the fire service’s Facebook page, which keeps the public and the media informed of latest call-outs – this was how the Leiston cat rescue incident emerged.

The fire service spokeswoman said the omission of the incident from the page was down to “human error”.

Andy Vingoe, chair of the Suffolk FBU, said: “It is a tad embarrassing for a lorry to go all that way to rescue a bird and difficult to justify, but it is something we have always done for lots of reasons, including stopping anybody else going up to do it.”

He added that such incidents were good practice in using the turntable ladder and the reason the incident was not logged on Facebook was probably because the control room, which is facing closure as a new regional call system is introduced, was short-staffed and under pressure.

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