On Wednesday 1st April at 5:45pm the Andover Rapid relief Team were called by Hampshire fire and rescue. Eighty firefighters were battling a blaze at a thatched cottage in Longparish – some had been working for nearly five hours in intense conditions without a bite to eat – would the RRT please attend? Of course! The delight on their faces when the RRT rolled up at 6:30 was plain to see, and encouraged the team to set up as quickly as possible.
Hot and cold drinks and snacks were soon available for the crews. Barely able to keep up with demand, the team served over 100 teas and coffees to exhausted men – saturated, cold and covered in ash. Thatch fires are a firefighters nightmare – it’s backbreaking work pulling away the straw from the roof, and this one was made even worse by the double layer of straw and wire due to a new roof being laid on top of the old. Unfortunately the thatch was too well alight to save the roof, but the crews did a fantastic job and saved the masonry from too much damage. They cleared the house and very little was lost. An unusually high number of breathing apparatus sets were used due to the high smoke levels, adding more discomfort to the task.
When a steady stream of firefighters had been filing past the tent for two hours, the incident commander asked if there was any chance hot food could be served – no problem for the well equipped RRT! Two team members travelled back to Andover to purchase the goods while the remainder busied themselves setting up the grills. By 8:30 pm bacon rolls were being served in dozens – two pump crews at a time plus support staff.
The boost to morale was very noticeable – in the words of a member of the command:
“You have no idea what this means to us – absoulutely amazing – real boost for the men – these jobs are a nightmare for all of us”
An hour later, bacon rolls were still in great demand and the team continued to serve with smiling faces – many firecrews commented on the willingness to help and expressed sincere gratitude for the efforts of the RRT:
“You lot are a Godsend – when our catering truck went due to budget cuts it left a massive hole”
By 10 pm the house had been declared safe and the majority of straw had been cleared away, several crews were stood down and the demand for refreshments lessened – the commander informed the RRT was it free to leave the incident. A last call for hot drinks and bacon rolls was made and a few more were served while the rest of the team began the unenviable task of packing up the equipment in the pouring rain!
The incident commander came and gave expressed the gratitude of the men: “Thankyou for your attendance, your smiling faces and most of all the bacon butties” The unanimous response from the RRT members present: “No problem at all!”