Firefighters complete training exercise at Chichester Cathedral

Photo credit: Eddie Mitchell

Release date: 24 May 2024

Huge crowds gathered to watch firefighters complete a major training exercise at Chichester Cathedral which tested their procedures in the event of a fire.

The mock incident, which took place on Monday (20 May), saw crews rescue one person stuck inside the building with synthetic smoke billowing from the roof.

Station Manager at Chichester Fire Station and Event Director, Anton Mezzone, said: "We have been working hard to adapt our emergency response plans for a fire at Chichester Cathedral, after reviewing the learning points from the Notre-Dame fire in 2019.

"This exercise was an opportunity for us to put our new and improved plans to the test. I’m pleased to say that the operation was a huge success, and everything ran smoothly.

Smoke billowing from the Cathedral
Photo credit: Eddie Mitchell

"There is so much that goes on behind the scenes during a major fire – it’s not just about firefighters on the ground; we constantly communicate with the water companies to check the water pressure is sufficient, we liaise with the media to help share safety messages and we work with the local communities to keep them safe and minimise disruption, so all of these elements were assessed too.”

The exercise also tested the viability of using the water supply from Chichester Canal to reach the Cathedral. Due to the scale of the exercise, several roads were closed throughout the city centre.

Station Manager Mezzone added: "I am absolutely delighted to have seen so many people come along to watch the exercise unfold. There was a huge sense of community spirit, and even young children who came along dressed as firefighters which was amazing to see!

Crows lining the streets
Photo credit: Eddie Mitchell

"A huge shout out goes to all of our partner agencies who came along and assisted with the exercise, The Showmen for lending us their PA system for the live commentary, SRL Traffic Systems who provided variable messaging signs across the city to make people aware of the road closures and Goodwood for lending us barriers to ensure that the public were kept safe throughout. Finally, a huge thank you goes to Chichester Cathedral for letting us use their spectacular landmark for this exercise.”

A spokesperson at Chichester Cathedral, added: “We are grateful to all of those involved in the planning and delivery, including the team at the West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service. Next year marks 950 years of our Cathedral, and this exercise offered a valuable opportunity to trial emergency plans and procedures, ensuring the protection of our Cathedral for years to come.”

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