Slovakian Air Force firefighters undergo UK training

Six Slovakian Air Force firefighters have been put through their paces in Britain so they can pick up the skills needed to tackle major aircraft fires.

Held at Defence Fire Training and Development Centre in Manston, Kent, their week-long training has consisted of learning incident command techniques and aircraft firefighting tactics.

Staff Sergeant Michal Fusi, of the Slovakian Air Force firefighting service, said the programme has been "very important" because there is not the ability to undertake it back in his country.

"Our facilities are not so good for aircraft firefighting, they are mainly facilities for domestic fires or crash fires, train fires or road tunnels - but no aircraft," he said.

Members of the Slovakian Air Force in action (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Members of the Slovakian Air Force in action (Gareth Fuller/PA)

"So, this is the only option (coming to the UK) to have this type of training... it is very beneficial for us."

The 36-year-old said the snow and bitterly cold temperatures they were working with throughout their stay provided better conditions than they would get at this time of year in Slovakia.

And that his team will go home more prepared, and able to pass on the skills and information they have picked up in the UK.

Having put out aircraft fires before, he said the procedures of doing so are very important and that what they have learnt using the simulators "decreases the chaos" during a real incident.

Their training has included classroom and live fire fighting exercises held at the facility, which features the usual fire station-type buildings plus a plethora of old and retired RAF aircraft.

Resembling a graveyard for former aircraft, some of the donated and de-armed equipment includes a Tornado, Harrier Jump Jet, Jaguar, Sea King and Lynx helicopters and even one of the Queen's former private jets.

There are also a number of fire simulators such as a "fire wall" and one that is shaped like the fuselage of a large plane with seats inside, which can be used to mimic aircraft such as a C-17 Globemaster.

Drills at the RAF Manston Defence Fire Training & Development Centre in Ramsgate, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Drills at the RAF Manston Defence Fire Training & Development Centre in Ramsgate, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

On site there is also a "hot house" which resembles a family home and can be set alight, plus a mocked up hospital wing, as well as vehicles including a Land Rover, a bus and trucks.

Area Manager Ken Cross, the brigade training manager for Defence Fire Risk Management Organisation, said the facility is usually used for training firefighters across all three services, including the special forces, and that more than 3,000 people pass through its doors every year.

With many British C-17 aircraft landing in Slovakia as part of the Nato agreement, he said fire cover - in case of an incident - has to be provided to a certain standard, so the offer of training was extended.

He said the Slovakians have enjoyed a "busy and interesting week", and that some challenges arose because each country uses different trucks and equipment.

"They have loved every minute of it, they are learning and learning quick, and they are very energetic - they have a lot of enthusiasm, which makes it easier for us," he added.

"They are very, very good firefighters."