Hawick’s long-awaited river defences might still be years away from completion, but the arrival of a new water rescue unit at the town’s fire station will offer some peace of mind to Teries fearful of further flooding.
The unit, now ready for deployment from the Howdenbank station to anywhere in the Borders or beyond, is a purpose-built vehicle to carry up to six firefighters and tow a permanently-inflated boat on a trailer.
Other equipment on board includes an inflatable rescue sled, inflatable mud path, floating hose, throw lines, personal protective equipment for crews, a first aid bag and defibrillator.
Russell Bell, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Hawick-based station commander for the Borders, said: “All the whole-time watches at Hawick have been undergoing intensive training over the last few months, and this has seen them become proficient in a wide range of skills, including carrying out rescue from a riverbank, from the boat or physically entering the water to retrieve a casualty.
“Some staff have been trained as boat operators, and this allows them to manoeuvre the boat in conditions ranging from rapid water on the river to severe flooding on a high street.
“I know they’re delighted to have this resource and recognise its worth.
“The introduction of the unit at Hawick is not only a fantastic addition to our local resources but also to the Scottish Borders community and can provide further resilience in the event of climate-related flooding and other inland water-related incidents.”
The decision to provide an additional water rescue capability in the Scottish Borders follows a review by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service of its specialist equipment.
The project is ongoing with the aims of providing equitable access to specialist resources across Scotland while ensuring the service has the correct resources in the correct locations based on risk.
This new addition sees an increase in water rescue capability within the Borders, with crews at Galashiels fire station also providing a water rescue response.
Further cover is provided by retained staff at both Hawick and Galashiels being trained to respond to flooding incidents.
Although the water rescue teams are based in Hawick and Galashiels, they can be deployed anywhere in Scotland, as well as providing mutual aid to their opposite numbers south of the border.