Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s specialist Water Rescue Unit responds to emergencies on the county’s waterways and lakes. Firefighters use specialist dry suits and helmets and adjust their methods based on the risk level of each incident.
Crew members may choose to swim out or offer rescue lines to people or use dinghies, ice paths or sledges in more dangerous waters.
If there are any incidents on the River Thames, crews can use the unit’s 164-horsepower Workstar jet boat. The machine is believed to be the largest in-shore capacity boat in the country – measuring 7.5 metres in length. Fast-flowing waters can be safely tackled by the boat, which is highly manoeuvrable and has a platform at its stern for pulling casualties from the river.
The jet boat can hold six adults as well as the crew. Its speed is restricted on the River Thames due to the ‘wash’ it can create behind.
The Water Rescue Unit has been based at Caversham Road Fire Station for many years and was joined on site by the Animal Rescue Unit in 2010. The units merged in May 2014 and share their equipment in a modified Mercedes van.