The Rope Rescue Challenge has existed since an original demonstration in Belfast which saw it become the first discipline beyond road traffic collisions and trauma care to be officially added to the UKRO event. The demonstration took place in 2005 with Paul Purser and two others from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, working alongside firefighters from Northern Ireland. This developed to become the UKRO Rope Rescue Challenge.

LFRS has entered a team into every UKRO Challenge since, other than 2015, and Mark has been proud to be a part of all of them. From competing in Brighton in 2006 right through to this year, LFRS picked up awards for the best overall team in 2008 and came third place in 2012 and 2013.

Recently, a team from our Service took part in the UKRO Challenge 2016 which took place between 8 – 10 September at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Station, Eastleigh. Our team proved to be a huge success, leaving with medals for:

Best Rope Team (1st Place)
Best Technical Team
Best Medic

The current team consists of some very experienced members, right through to some new home grown and home trained talent. Requiring a mixture of skills in incident command, medical and obviously very importantly rope rescue, they began training nearly 12 months ago. A big congratulation must go to the team, which consisted of:

Incident Commander: Mark Edwards
Medic: Jim Stretton
Crew: Ken Hughes, Dan Fathers, Rob Harrison, Dan Johnson

Many teams have sort additional training as the challenge has evolved from what was originally an all rescue scenario, into individual skills test challenges. They have sent personnel away to undertake personal rope access courses, designed for industry access workers under the IRATA scheme – London and Hampshire also sent their teams there this year. They have also benefitted from sponsorship for equipment, sourcing bespoke items purely for the competition and marginal gains.

LFRSs team has always been in the spirit of the UKRO mission statement – “UK rescue services developing their skills to serve the public.” As such they only use equipment which they would use operationally, and all their training must have a direct benefit to their operational response.

This year the challenge was the hardest Mark had taken part in. They started each day at 8am, finishing at approximately 6pm. During the day there were no breaks (lunch or siestas)! They had five skills tests, three rescue scenarios with multiple casualties to be rescued in each, and two workshops spread over two days.

With major teams from London (who have been multiple winners in the past), the home team of Hampshire (also previous multiple winners who had home ground advantage) and Dorset and Wiltshire, the team were under some pressure to perform. At the final calling, the top three teams were separated overall by just 35 points out of 3500 – LFRS coming out on top of course!

The whole team thanked Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service for the financial support and encouragement that allowed them to represent the Service.

It’s also worth mentioning the fantastic support we have had from:

Our seventh man Dean Reynolds, who despite knowing unless someone dropped out he wouldn’t be going with us, gave up his own time to attend every training session since February and now awaits his chance to shine on the big stage.

Chris Bilby who retired but kindly continued to give up his time to provide us with some coaching.

Ali Burns, who is also retired and paid to come and support the team throughout the two days of the competition.

They are now look forward to the prospect of being able to represent LFRS at the international competition Grimpday held in Belgium where teams from all over the world come to showcase their skills in rope rescue. As well looking to defend the title at the UKRO challenge in Humberside next year. But our first job is to pass on the skills we have just picked up to the people that matter our operational firefighters who serve the public.