VIDEO: Firefighters’ helicopter mission

FIREFIGHTERS from across North Somerset could be the first in the country to benefit from the use of a helicopter.

A trial took place in Weston last week assessing the potential benefits of offering full-time use of the aircraft to teams at Avon Fire and Rescue Service.

More than 30 crew members, including the specialist cliff rescue team, assembled at the top of Uphill Quarry to take part in a variety of simulated rescues.

Fire service chief executive Kevin Pearson is backing the project which he believes could lead to long-term efficiencies and improved casualty care.

Mr Pearson said: “I believe a helicopter could be used to get firefighters and equipment to the scene of certain emergencies more quickly than we could in road vehicles.

“If we can get life-saving skills and equipment to the scene of an emergency, such as a car accident, more quickly than ever before, it certainly improves a casualty’s chance of surviving.

“I would never expect helicopters to replace fire engines, but we think there is definitely a financial and operational case that an aircraft could be used to support our equipment and vehicles.”

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Several firefighters arrived in the helicopter and stretchers and equipment were lowered down before mock rescues got underway.

The five-day trial, carried out using a Eurocopter EC145 helicopter from Germany, along with a crew and fuel, was provided free of charge.

Mr Pearson said he is not yet sure whether the service would rent the aircraft or buy one, but says the cost would be met by reducing the amount of road vehicles.

He added: “Advances in technology mean rescue equipment is now lighter and more powerful. As a result I believe we can now fit enough onto a helicopter to provide an effective response.”

Mr Pearson will take the results of the trial, which he said has proved the need for a helicopter, and present a case study to the Fire Authority, which will have the final say.

If successful it is hoped the helicopter, which could get to Weston in 10 minutes from its base in Filton, will be operational by 2012.

n To see a video of the helicopter in action at the Uphill exercise log onto

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