The Oldham Mountain Rescue team talk exclusively to us!
“To deal with two major incidents in such a short space of time is virtually unprecedented for the team.”
After a difficult year that began with extreme snow and led into a summer of wildfires and record temperatures, the Oldham Mountain Rescue team are getting back to their daily grind of call outs.
This year has been one of severe weather conditions , which for the Oldham mountain rescue team, has meant that they have needed to push themselves to the limits, working long days and even taking time away from full time jobs to help control the recent wildfires. Team Leader Matt Nield says that “We went from being an on-call service to being a perpetually deployed service doing 14/15 hour days. The toll on team members was huge at the end of the day.”
This also led to increased pressure on him to offer his team relief and time away from the action to spend time at home and to work their regular jobs.
There has, however, been a massively positive reaction since the wildfires, Nields says that he has seen a real response from local communities and people wanting to help the Mountain Rescue team: “the community have really rallied round each other in the broader sense and then in terms of fundraising which has been massive and then raising our profile and food donations which has been phenomenal really.”
Working alongside the community is a key part of the work done by the Mountain Rescue team, as Dr Andy Taylor, who has been a member of the crew for 43 years, says: “We also have different things like going into schools and giving lectures. Attending things like Cotton Clouds festival, which is partly giving back to the community and partly fundraising.” Working with schools and at events is a regular part of the Rescue team’s work as they are keen to instil knowledge and outdoor experience in the younger generation. This is just one example of the variation the Mountain Rescue team face, as Taylor says: “You can’t say what the average day is, it can go from being nothing at all, to speaking to the community to spending 17 days of getting mucky and your lungs full of smoke.”
As well as aiding in tackling the blazes and ensuring the safety of those nearby the fires, the team were also constantly on the lookout for new blazes, assisting the firefighters. Rebecca Fitton only joined the team a year ago and has faced the toughest possible first 12 months with the team: “of course there’s no way I would have expected to have had to deal with this sort of thing so soon after joining.”
Fitton did, however, say that she didn’t fear the fires and that she “just wanted to get out there and help.” Fitton also says that the training that the team do week in and week out helped mountain rescue in “functioning as a team getting into a routine of having people out and people here filling water and prepping.”
So, on a normal Tuesday evening, where the team are running equipment training and drills, it is easy to see the levels of dedication that the mountain rescue team put in each week, making sure they are ready to deal with call outs of any kind.