WATCH: Northumberland hosts international wildfire event

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service hosted an international training exercise, incorporating virtual-reality wildfire training using a simulation tool, involving partners from France, Italy and Portugal.

The Initiative for Global Management of big fires through Simulation (IGNIS) programme project is funded by the European Commission and provides fire officers and incident commanders with a virtual-reality setting to train real-life incident commanders on how to command and control large-scale and complex wildfire incidents.

Some of the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service staff involved in the international wildfire training exercise.
 Picture by Jane Coltman

Some of the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service staff involved in the international wildfire training exercise. Picture by Jane Coltman

The purpose of the tool is to provide a virtual reality setting in which different parts of the command system work together, replicating management of a real-life wildfire and ultimately keeping people safe.

This is the first event in the UK which uses a virtual-reality tool to manage wildfires and following the development of this tool, the training tool and packages can be used within partner countries and across Europe to train fire officers in wildfire management.

Paul Hedley, Chief Fire Officer at Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are proud to have been involved in the development of this virtual-reality training tool along with our international partners and to also be the lead service in the UK for tackling wildfires.

“Wildfires can have devastating effects and it is paramount that we know how to manage and suppress them effectively when they arise, which we are able to do through the use of this training tool which allows us to work with all areas of command and our international agencies to coordinate the effective management of a wildfire.”

Wildfire team project officer Rob Stacey in the control van at the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service international wildfire training exercise.
 Picture by Jane Coltman

Wildfire team project officer Rob Stacey in the control van at the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service international wildfire training exercise. Picture by Jane Coltman

John Riddle, cabinet member for planning, housing and resilience at Northumberland County Council, said: “We are delighted to host this training event and welcome partners from across Europe to our facility at West Hartford, Cramlington, working together to set up various virtual-reality wildfire training scenarios, combating the fire and preparing the fire and rescue service should a wildfire occur in Northumberland.”