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Buncefield Case Study

In the early hours of Sunday 11 December 2005 events were about to unfold that would go down in the history of the UK Fire and Rescue Service. At 0601 hours the peace of the early winter's morning was shattered by an initial massive blast followed by smaller but still significant explosions. The resulting fire was one of the largest of its kind in peacetime Europe. It represented a significant challenge for everyone involved.

Hertfordshire Fire & Rescue Service arrived within minutes and the officer in charge had declared a major incident by 0610 hours. The first firefighters to arrive were met by a scene of utter devastation spread over and immense area. The explosion wrecked homes and businesses in the local area, with damage reported up to 18.6km away.

Officers from Devon and Somerset joined colleagues from some 31 Fire & Rescue Services that all sent assistance to the incident. Their role was to operate the High Volume Pump units that had been mobilised to the fire. These units are supplied as part of the New Dimension Project, and this was the first nationally coordinated response of these New Dimension assets.

Having a capability to pump up to 7000l/min over a distance of 3km. They proved pivotal to supply and maintain the sustained foam attack required to deal with the incident. At the height of the incident 15 High Volume Pump units were used, 6 of these were used to deliver water through 12 lines of hose over a distance of 1.8km. These alone were supplying around 25,000l/min at pressures of up to 14 bars.

Buncefield: Interesting Facts

  • 22 Tanks & 7 bunds involved in fire
  • 221 x 999 calls to 7 different Fire & Rescue Services
  • 31 Fire & Rescue Services supported Hertfordshire
  • 4 industry fire brigades supported Hertfordshire
  • 15 High Volume Pumps used
  • Approximately 36 million litres of fuel saved
  • 786,000 litres of foam concentrate used
  • 53 million litres of 'clean water' applied to fire
  • 15 million litres of water recycled and reapplied to fire
  • 10 million litres of water moved on site to protect the environment
  • 38km of hose used
  • Incident covered area approx 1.5km by 1km
  • 51 buildings searched
  • 1/2 mile radius evacuated (0.8km)
  • Window breakage at 2km with further minor damage as far away as 18.6km
  • First national mobilisation of Fire & Rescue Services by National Coordination Centre
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