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Fire Service adopts new Wildfire Policy 22 January 2007

Firefighters have been issued with new lightweight, fire-retardant suits as part of a new Wildfire Policy adopted by the Isle of Man’s Fire and Rescue Service.

All 155 fulltime and retained firefighters have now received the new suits, funded by the Department of Home Affairs at a cost of around £30,000, including boots, T-shirts and kitbag.

Deputy Fire Chief Bruce Kirkham explained:

‘The Fire Service has traditionally adapted to the changing needs of the community and it has become apparent in recent years that climate change is impacting on the Isle of Man in terms of the greater number of heathland and gorse fires we have seen, most notably the devastating Bradda Head fire in October 2003.

'A Tynwald Select Committee looked into the Bradda Head fire and a number of recommendations made in their report in December 2005 have now been incorporated into our Wildfire Policy. This included the provision of a greater number of offroad vehicles and the personal issue of the wildfire suits to firefighters. The standard fire kit is designed to protect firefighters in structural compartments and enclosed spaces and has proved too cumbersome during use in heath fires.’

wildfire suited firefighters and off road fire applianceThe new one-piece flame retardant overall is made of lightweight gold nomex material – to reflect heat rather than absorb it. The Goretex lining wicks away body heat and moisture and allows a high level of protection along with freedom of movement. They cost around £150 each.

The Fire Service has also developed comprehensive operational strategies for the different type of environments it may face in dealing with healthland and gorse fires. Additionally, the Isle of Man has joined the Scottish Wildfire Forum to share experience and obtain the latest expertise in fighting wildfires.

Mr Kirkham added:

‘There’s a public perception that a gorse or heath fire is an innocuous event whereas fires on open land can be catastrophic in terms of loss of property and injury or death.’

Representatives of the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service will attend quarterly meetings of the Scottish Wildfire Forum. The Forum includes members of all Scottish fire brigades plus representatives of private landowners and other government agencies.

Island fire safety officers offer a free consultation service, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, to advise landowners on ways to create fire breaks and other land management techniques to limit the spread of wildfires. The biggest threat is from walkers and other countryside users who fail to dispose of cigarettes or use barbecues responsibly.

For fire safety advice telephone 647328 or email the Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters on iomfire@gov.im.

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