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Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) tackled a ‘simulated’ blaze in a wood chipping machine, that threatened to engulf an industrial building at Countrystyle Recycling’s Wood Operations in Ridham Docks last night, Tuesday (23 August).

Four fire engines and around 20 firefighters and officers took part in the training drill, which saw crews from Sheppey, Sittingbourne, Rainham and Eastchurch race to the industrial building in Ridham Dock Road, Sittingbourne, after the alarm was raised at 7pm.

KFRS crews arrived to find the on-site firefighting team at Ridham Docks had launched an initial attack on the fire using on-site firefighting equipment, to help suppress the flames and limit the fire spread.

However, despite their best efforts, they were beaten back by smoke and hand the firefighting operation over to KFRS crews, who immediately got to work using the on-site water supply. Water fan sprays were also used to keep the main stack of chippings cool and prevent the fire spreading.

This approach enabled crews to test the theoretical water plan that has been developed collaboratively over recent months between KFRS, the Environment Agency and Countrystyle Recycling.

KFRS firefighters used the latest equipment in the simulated drill, including fog spike. This is highly effective at firefighting in confined, difficult to access areas such as roof and floor spaces and partition walling. The spike punches holes, allowing water to be directed at the hottest part of the fire in the form of a finely dispersed mist, almost all the water evaporates leading to a faster, more efficient way of tackling the blaze. It is also safer for firefighters as it reduces the risk of backdraught and flashovers occurring, as it dramatically reduces the temperature.

Sheppey Watch Manager, Andy Bridger-Smart, organiser of Tuesday’s training exercise said: “Reducing risks and preventing incidents is a critical part of the service we deliver. However, being well prepared to respond to emergencies when they occur is at the centre of what we do.

“Fire can cause major disruption for businesses – there is a far greater chance of recovery if risks have been identified, and appropriate measures put in place to prevent fires starting, or to mitigate their impact. That’s why this type of joint training is essential, it helps ensure plans are tried, tested and validated and that we are all prepared, should the worst happen.

“We are extremely grateful to Countrystyle Recycling for offering us the use of their site to put the theoretical plan into practice.”

Stuart Markham, Head of Environment and Planning said: “Countrystyle continues to work closely with KFRS and the Environment Agency to ensure we achieve the highest levels of health and safety and environmental compliance and understand the key role Kent Fire and Rescue Service play in preparing for these types of emergencies.”

The training exercise aptly named, Chipper, lasted for around four hours.