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Northamptonshire Firefighter takes centre stage to help influence future of animal rescue practices

Firefighter Mick Titcombe observing a Koala during his Churchill Fellowship trip to Australia

A Northamptonshire firefighter took centre stage at an international conference demonstrating how the UK Fire Service can improve its rescue of animals from water.

Mick Titcombe, a Command Training and Operational Assurance Team Manager at Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service, was a keynote speaker at the annual BARTA (British Animal Rescue and Trauma Care Association) conference in Glasgow last week.

In his speech, Mick discussed the findings of his upcoming research paper, which focuses on improving the UK’s preparedness for climate emergencies for incidents involving animals.

Responders, Vets, and emergency planners from 13 countries came together to form an international community of practice to tackle climate issues, from fires floods Earthquakes and other natural disasters.

MIck Titcombe presenting in front of a room full of people

Mick was successful in securing a Churchill Fellowship grant to fund a research trip to Australia and the United States of America in October 2023, where he was able to train with crews in both countries, study how they deal with animal rescues during climate emergencies and bring his learnings back to the UK.

Mick said: “Australia and the USA have different types of climate related disasters, but the devastation is very similar. In those countries they have responders and systems in place to try and mitigate this, and the main aim of my research was mainly focused on the widescale floodings they have, and learning how they respond and join together the different disciplines of animal and water rescue. It was great to be joined by Dave King, State Emergency service New South Wales Australia, and Eric Thompson Animal Search and Rescue (ASAR) United States to join me with my talk.”

Mick is hugely qualified in animal rescue, having been a long-serving firefighter at Wellingborough – where the Service’s Animal Rescue Unit is based, which is one of the busiest appliances in the county, with NFRS attending more than 80 animal rescues in the 2023/24 financial year.

He also has a strong passion for agriculture, with his grandparents owning a farm, and with a smallholding of his own with several species of animals. That passion led to his involvement in animal rescue with Northamptonshire Fire, where for many years he has taught new recruits all about animal and water rescue. He is now bringing his learnings from abroad into his training in Northamptonshire, but the Conference allowed him to share his findings to a wider audience.

Mick Titcombe delivering an animal rescue demonstration

Mick said: “It was a fantastic experience, and it has been great to share my learnings with the BARTA Conference, it is important that we share learning across the international community.

“Climate change is bringing new risks with it to our communities, and so as a Fire Service we need to adapt to those changes. 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, and hopefully speaking at the conference has been a way of helping to influence the change we need in this country – whether it’s improving our pre-planning, our response, how we work with partners or enhancing the training we receive and the equipment we use.”

Chief Fire Officer Nikki Watson added: “We are very proud of Mick and the work he is doing to improve our response to animal rescue in climate emergencies, not just here in Northamptonshire, but in helping the lead the way nationally.

“We know Mick found his trip to Australia and the USA very informative, and he has already shared his learnings with the National Fire Chiefs’ Council (NFCC). Along with his speech at this conference, he is helping to shape national policy for the future, and his passion for improving this area of work is an inspiration to us all.”

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