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Northamptonshire firefighter awarded a grant for research into animal and water rescues

Mick Titcombe rescuing a horse from a ditch

A Northamptonshire firefighter has been awarded a coveted grant that could lead to improved national response guidance for the UK fire and rescue service when rescuing animals from water.

Mick Titcombe, a Watch Commander and Specialist Training and National Resilience Coordinator at Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, is combining his passion as firefighter and a farmer to improve the outcomes for animals rescued from water, following his successful application for a Churchill Fellowship grant.

With global predictions indicating more frequent and severe flooding, responding to water rescues is a growing risk for fire services in the UK. Mick’s research project will take him to South-East Australia and USA where he has arranged to meet with a variety of subject matter experts who deal regularly with water rescues and animals.

Mick will spend 20 days in Australia, where responders have had to deal with the worst recorded flooding disasters. He will work with the fire service and emergency responders to find out how they manage these types of incident, and what measures and equipment they use to get the best outcome.

He will then travel to USA where he will join a three-day, multi-state simulated disaster that will test responders and other agencies in managing an extreme environmental emergency. He will work with the National Alliance of State Animal and Agricultural Programmes, a US-based company that focuses on emergency preparedness and response to disasters that involve animals to understand how they manage complex animal rescues and ensure the safety of responders as well as the welfare of the animals.

Mick said: “The flooding experienced in the UK in recent years has already demonstrated the potential disruption we face in a changing climate. Much of the emergency response models for flooding are focused on human rescue with minimal awareness, equipment, knowledge and experience of rescuing animals from water. I want to change this.

“We need to integrate animal water rescue into our national operational guidance and increase our capability and knowledge, as well as improve access to specialist equipment. I want to learn from leaders and experts in large scale animal and water rescue emergency incidents and build knowledge, resources and response plans that could help the UK manage these types of incidents more effectively. Colleagues in Australia and USA are well placed to provide insights into managing these natural disasters.”

Mick Titcombe in front of the Unimog

When he returns, Mick will present his findings to the National Fire Chiefs Council, so that they can help improve response across the fire sector, not just in Northamptonshire.

Acting Chief Fire Officer at Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service Simon Tuhill said: “I’m enormously proud that one of our own firefighters has been successful in securing a Churchill Fellowship grant to fund what I hope will be invaluable research not only for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service but also for the UK fire and rescue service as a whole.

“Mick has recognised a gap in our knowledge and has developed a proposal, secured funding and planned a packed schedule, meeting with emergency responders and rescue experts in Australia and the USA and is taking part in a multi-state flooding exercise in the States. I look forward to seeing the impact his learnings can have on operational response to animal rescues from water when he returns.”

The Churchill Fellowship supports individuals in following their passion for change and who have the potential to make a real difference to either their community or professional sector. The funding opens access to global resources and knowledge enabling successful applicants to extend their learning across international borders and bring back new approaches and best practice procedures to the UK.

Julia Weston, Chief Executive of The Churchill Fellowship said: “We are very pleased to welcome Mick Titcombe, a dedicated firefighter from Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service as a Churchill Fellow. He is setting off on a journey to Australia and the USA to learn how to improve fire and rescue emergency responses to water rescue incidents involving animals, beloved pets and valuable livestock. His passion and commitment to emergency services is inspiring and we wish him well as he embarks on contributing to a safer world for humans and animals.”

Mick has worked for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service for just over 25 years and was initially posted to Corby Fire Station in 1998. He then had short periods at Moulton, Mereway and The Mounts followed by two years as a breathing apparatus instructor. The next 19 years were spent at Wellingborough Fire Station, where some of the Service’s specialist animal and water rescue kit it based before taking up his current position within the training team.

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