'Avoid the floods' plea as incidents put extra strain on fire service stretched by Covid
Shrewsbury's fire station manager has urged people not to drive or walk through flood water, as fire crews are under strain due to the impact of both Covid-19 and floods.
As floods yet again devastate Shrewsbury, Craig Jackson has urged the public to be vigilant and not to cause avoidable incidents.
Teams at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service have been working through the day and night to rescue people stranded in cars across the county after they drove into flood water.
The impact of the floods has put more strain on the fire service as new Covid-19 regulations require firefighters to self-isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with some who test positive – this could mean a whole team off at once.
Mr Jackson said that people should be vigilant and not to drive through flood water or even walk through it as there so many dangers.
"One of the main things at the moment is the impact of incidents that are avoidable," he said. "We appreciate there are incidents that are accidental. But people driving into flood water is an incident that can be avoided.
"The general public have to help us. We are in a challenging situation, trying to maintain our availability and remain Covid-safe. The pandemic is having a huge impact on our staffing.
"When an appliance is out on a job, if one person in that appliance tests positive, the whole team has to self-isolate for 10 days. This puts a massive strain on us. The public have to remain vigilant."
Overnight on Thursday, water rescue crews were active in the Oswestry area rescuing people from vehicles, said Mr Jackson.
"The night before we had lots of incidents where cars had come to rise in water and crews had to rescue them using our boat," he said.
"Our main advice is to look at the Government website, and the Environment Agency which provide really good information about flooding. Definitely don't drive into flood water, don't ignore road closure signs.
"As little as 30cm of water can raise a car and start to float away. A lot of the rescues we do are vans and 4x4s as they think they can make it through because they're taller but unfortunately they get stuck too.
"Don't walk through flood water as some people like to have a paddle in their wellies but don't do it. Drain covers can be lifted and so people can get trapped in drains that they can't see. When the water level is also rising, this can be a very dangerous situation."
Mr Jackson said that everyone at Shropshire Fire and Rescue has put in a lot of work over the past few months.
"I would say a massive thank you to our crews and the teams at fire control. We have had less amount of firefighters through isolation periods. So we have had crews coming in on their rest days to maintain fire cover for the region.
"They have gone above and beyond. Our motto is ready, willing and able, and I think they have proved that."