More than 60 firefighters and dozens of emergency vehicles were involved in the biggest training exercise of the year in Sheffield today.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue tested its response to a major blaze involving casualties during the live training scenario at the former Prince Edward Primary School site on the Manor estate.
The firefighters were told as they arrived at the scene that the building was a university and there was a blaze in the basement science labs.
As the exercise developed over the next three hours, the ‘caretaker’ of the site - Rotherham District Station Manager, Steve Wood - gave officers more details, such as that two technicians had caused the electrical fire and five people were trapped.
Dummy dead bodies and casualties were hauled through the smoke and ‘treated’ by onsite paramedics.
The operation involved more than 60 on-duty firefighters, 10 standard fire engines and several support vehicles carrying extra equipment.
Group Manager Simon Rogers, who organised the exercise, said this was the fire service's biggest training scenario of the year.
Station manager Darren Perrot said: “Exercises such as this are vitally important for two reasons. First, they give our crews excellent experience, bringing realistic scenarios to life in real time.
“Second, they help us to test the procedures that we have in place to work with the other emergency services at incidents.
“How we work alongside our emergency service partners- known as interoperability- is an important aspect to our training as there is much we can continue to learn from one another about our ways of responding to incidents.”
A key aim in today’s training was to test out new guidelines for how to use the breathing apparatus that firefighters rely on inside smoke-filled buildings.
Smoke was pumped throughout the school, making the breathing apparatus essential.
Sometimes officers can get into trouble during training, so 'safe words' are used to make sure others around them understand if there is a real life emergency.
One firefighter explained that the exercise can be called off at any time by saying 'for real', which alerts officers to any real-world dangers.
Mr Wood said it would be ‘a shame’ for police and the fire service if the building was refurbished, because it is an ideal site for emergency services to train in.
The school has been left empty since pupils moved into the nearby new build over Easter last year.