FIREFIGHTERS are honing their rescue skills by practising drills rescuing a ‘casualty’ from the ancient tower at St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury.

Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue personnel used specialist equipment to rescue the dummy from the very top of the church, down the winding staircase, into the less confined space of the bell ringing chamber. From there another team, from the Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Urban Search and Rescue took over, to put together a complex pully and hoist system, to lower the dummy down gently, to the safety of the ground floor. There are 19 Urban Search and Rescue teams, within fire services in the UK. They were set up in the wake of 9/11 to respond to potential terrorist threats, but are trained in all elements of emergency search and rescue.

They had already developed a good relationship with St Mary’s, holding their annual carol service in the church, when they asked Fr Doug Zimmerman, the Team Rector, if they could use the church as a drill venue. “I contacted the DAC and ascertained we didn’t need a faculty for a drill,” says Fr Doug.

Crew commander Mark Allison, said: “The church is a good venue because the narrow staircase which is a confined space, and bell ringing chamber make it more realistic for us.”

Fr Doug added: “Essentially we just have a wonderful relationship with the Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service and we continue to interact with them when we see them in the street. I blessed their new fire truck when they brought it to church. I’m sure other parishes could work like this and get to know their local firefighters.”