Flash flooding led to a number of roads and properties becoming submerged overnight as some 60mm of rain fell over just a 6-hour period. This unexpected deluge led to a total of 135 calls to the fire service from desperate residents.
However, despite significant floods being reported with many homes underwater and roads impassable, it has been revealed that fire engines were only mobilised to 2.2% of calls – 3 incidents.
Historically, firefighters have responded to flooding events on the Island to assist with pumping out properties and reducing the risk of further flooding. In July 2012, 3 fire appliances were sent to Binstead when 8 homes were flooded. Then, in March 2013, the High Volume Pump was used to assist at Monktonmead Brook with the fire service called back to the Monktonmead area again in December 2013.
Just over 2 years ago, in July 2021, Cemetery Road in Binstead was once again aided by fire crews, with confirmation at the time that no lives were at risk.
But during last week’s flooding, there was a notable lack of fire service support compared to previous years. The High Volume Pump wasn’t mobilised at all and Ryde’s appliances hardly moved all day, despite Monktonmead being devastated by flood water from the brook.
In the wake of Thursday morning’s flooding, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service has now confirmed to Island Echo that they will only immediately respond to flooding incidents with a fire engine where there is a risk to life. The 3 incidents attended last Thursday were at Briddlesford Road at Downend, Middle Road near Calbourne and Sylvan Drive in Newport and all involved people trapped in their cars.
Duty officers were also mobilised to further triage issues on the ground. But in a lot of cases the callers were simply given advice and asked to call back should the situation change and there be a threat to life.
It’s unclear if there has been a policy change within the service, or whether the sometimes low availability of appliances and crew across the Island has had an impact on the strategic decisions made in relation to the service’s response to the flooding.
Jeff Walls, Group Manager for the Isle of Wight at HIWFRS, has said:
“The safety of people on the island is our priority. Flooding has a devastating impact on our communities and while we would like to be able to help everyone to protect and limit the damage to their property, we need to ensure that we have crews available to be able to immediately respond to calls where there is a threat to life.”
Article continues below this advertisement
Stew Adamson, Deputy Chief Fire Officer of HIWFRS, has said:
“We recognise that seeing flood waters rise and enter your home or business is very distressing. In the event of major flooding, we work closely with other agencies to deliver a coordinated response. As a fire service our operational priority is to protect life and our resources will always be focused on making sure people are safe. Our response plans follow national guidance.
“If you call 999 during a flood a fire crew will not automatically be sent unless there is a threat to life. Our highly trained control team will triage calls based on risk. Where resources are not deployed, Control Room operators offer advice on dealing with flooding and provide contact details for where callers can get further help, including floodline and the local council.”
Don’t miss another story! Get the Island’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up to our daily newsletter here.