Whaley Bridge dam: Chichester firefighter helps prevent flooding after structure partially collapses

Marvin Smith. Picture: WSFRS
Marvin Smith. Picture: WSFRS

A firefighter from Chichester has been drafted in to help the flood prevention effort at Whaley Bridge Dam in Derbyshire.

Marvin Smith, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s training planning manager, is based at Worthing fire station where the training and development team works from.

Marvin Smith (front right) briefs the Suffolk crew

Marvin Smith (front right) briefs the Suffolk crew

The 50-year-old is also a national resilience flood rescue tactical advisor. One of thirty advisors in the country, his specialist knowledge was called upon over the weekend following the partial collapse of the dam in Derbyshire.

Emergency services have been working around the clock to reduce the water level behind the dam to ease the pressure on the structure.

But with more bad weather forecast for Sunday evening, Marvin and a number of officers from other emergency services across the country were called in to make sure communities were prepared in case it flooded.

Speaking from further down river on Monday afternoon where he has been overseeing powerboat teams from Humberside, West Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Suffolk, he said: “I left West Sussex at 9.15pm on Saturday evening when I was called in, and I drove up through the night to get there. At the time the weather was looking pretty bleak.

“They had already taken the decision to evacuate more homes from further down the river from Whaley Bridge, as the risk of flooding was really quite severe.

“If the dam was to go, they needed to have resources in place for flood rescue, and that’s where we come in to provide that support.

“We have been based near Stockport, where the runoff from the dam is, and since arriving we have been working together to ensure plans are in place to support residents if they were to be displaced by flooding. So that’s everything from emergency food supplies to accommodation arrangements for the team, but also problem solving – so if a road was to get cut off by flood water, how would we get from A to B?

“The really good news is that they have made a real impact on reducing the water level in the reservoir, which has been crucial.

“And the rain that was forecast last night didn’t materialise, so we didn’t have that increase in water that was expected.

“There is a degree of frustration from some people who people want to get back into their homes and see this as a bit unnecessary, but equally there are those who do understand that we have to be prepared for all eventualities. Had the dam failed we would need to have the right resources in the right place and ready to go.”

It is likely with less stormy weather forecast over the next couple of days that Marvin will be stood down, although work is expected to continue at the reservoir for a number of days to bring the water level down further.