Black County's towering inferno opens for business

Black County's towering inferno opens for business

Oldbury Fire Station high rise training facility. Buy photo: 241402M

Oldbury Fire Station high rise training facility. Buy photo: 241403M

Oldbury Fire Station high rise training facility. Buy photo: 241404M

First published in News
Last updated

BEING face to face with 400 degree inferno is not something I will forget in a long time.

Luckily I was wearing a full fireman's uniform and breathing oxygen instead of lung-burning fumes.

Sixty feet above Oldbury in a man-made tower I was on my hands and knees and in awe of the power of the fire.

After fumbling around in the dark our team, which included firemen and News photographer Miriam Balfry, kept back as we witnessed the professionals take control.

A door was blasted open and in came five masked figures on their knees moving in unison. The fireman at the front trained the hose on the fire and within minutes the inferno was doused.

The £600,000 tower is the brain child of trainer Dave Payton who conceived of the idea while playing building block game Jenga.

He said: "To my knowledge this is the only one of its kind in the world and firefighters from across Europe will be coming here to learn how to tackle high rise fires, which are the most dangerous to fight.

"I must have been up the tower hundreds of times now and I am glad that it is finally ready to train firefighters."

The tower has rooms which are laid out as a domestic flat, an office and a communal room to help firefighters understand the challenges of each situation.

A machine also pumps 25mph air streams through each floor to simulate windy high rise conditions.

The new training facility was designed and built by Haagen and has six configurable floors linked by internal and external staircases and a lift shaft.

Jac Haagen, director at Haagen, said: “This state-of-the art training complex will provide the highest quality training to firefighters in the UK and will provide firefighting specialists with the knowledge that they need to advance in the field of ventilation training.”

Phil Hales, deputy chief fire officer for the West Midlands, said: “People who live in tower blocks are no more at risk from fire than someone in a house.

"The main purpose of our new facility is to train our firefighters safely, to provide a risk-based, assertive and safe emergency response to people who live and work in tower blocks throughout the West Midlands.

“There are nearly 1,000 residential buildings in the West Midlands with four storeys or more. More than half of them have at least eights storeys.

"In the last three years we’ve been to nearly 1,200 fires in tower blocks which, unfortunately, involved four deaths and 200 people being injured."

And after seeing first hand how ferocious fires can quickly become it is a relief our firefighters have their own towering inferno to practice on every day.

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