Centre will train firefighters to deal with serious incidents

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A TRAINING centre that will prepare firefighters to deal with rescues in the event of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack is set to be developed at Newcraighall.

The fire training facility will include the creation of an urban search and rescue (USAR) training corridor, in which instructors will be able to simulate the kind of conditions crews could face in the event of a serious incident.

The plans – which also include a fire tower for practising rope and height rescues, and an area for training exercises involving road crashes – were approved by councillors at a meeting yesterday.

The fire service is required to have a minimum of 60 staff trained in USAR techniques, with the skilled firefighters potentially needed both for local and national incidents.

The facility will give firefighters experience at using equipment required in serious incidents, which cover everything from weather crises to collapsed buildings and terrorist attacks.

It will include training on thermal imaging cameras used to detect people trapped under rubble and a heavy rig used for breaking large holes in concrete structures in order to reach trapped survivors.

They will also learn how to shore-up collapsing structures and rescue people from buried pipes and manholes.

Personnel from other areas of Scotland could be trained there under proposals for a single national fire service.

Development of the new facility, which will cost around £450,000, is expected to start as soon as planning permission has been approved.

A spokeswoman for the fire service said: “We are pleased that our application for planning permission will be heard by councillors next week.

“This will ensure that firefighters can continue to maintain their specialist skills, allow us to deliver in-house training and potentially provide training for personnel from outside our area as we move towards a single fire and rescue service.”

She added: “The new build will allow us to create a site for realistic training scenarios which will ensure our personnel are trained to the highest standard to provide an emergency response to the public.”

Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service had hoped to create a £7 million purpose-built training facility including an area to test the service’s response to rail accidents, and two large four-storey buildings.

However, the service was forced to scale back its plans as a result of cuts to its budget.