Firefighters used three high pressure jets to extinguish a blaze involving a lorry on the A90 in Aberdeenshire on Thursday afternoon (6 August).
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) crews from Stonehaven were mobilised in response to a call from Police Scotland shortly after 2:35pm, with firefighters reaching the scene nine minutes later.
A third appliance was sent to the incident from Laurencekirk to bolster the resources available at the scene.
Watch Manager John Strachan, the incident commander, said the appliances made their way through a backlog of traffic to find the heavy goods vehicle well-alight.
He explained: “The driver had exited the vehicle and separated the tractor section from the rest of the lorry, but the front of the vehicle was fully engulfed and smoke was travelling across all four lanes of the road.
“We do a lot of training with our local police team and that strong partnership was valuable as they closed the carriageway in both directions, which allowed us to quickly secure a water supply from the other side of the road.
“There was excellent co-operation between the two services and liaising closely throughout the firefighting operation allowed our police colleagues to gradually open lanes to help clear traffic and minimise the inevitable disruption to the public.”
The incident was a challenging one for firefighters due to the intensity of the flames, the large volume of fuel carried by the continental lorry and the presence of gas canisters.
Officers also had to consider the possibility of a failure in the suspension or tyres causing projectiles to move out from the lorry.
Watch Manager Strachan continued “We positioned firefighters on either side of the vehicle and over the course of about 90 minutes used a main jet and two hosreel jets to douse the flames with both water and foam.
“The good work of our crews and police colleagues ultimately ensured that the fire was extinguished and that road users were kept safe.”
All three crews involved in the incident serve on the retained duty system (RDS), which sees men and women from all walks of life commit to providing their communities with a vital emergency service.
Serving ‘on call’ in addition to their regular employment, the firefighters live and work within five to eight minutes of their local fire station and undertake regular training to maintain the wide range of skills required in SFRS crews.
Watch Manager Strachan is in his 40th year with the Stonehaven RDS unit and has served as its officer in charge for around two decades.
As a business owner he understands what having staff serve as on-call firefighters means for employers, with 40 per cent of his workforce also joining him in providing the vital emergency service to their Aberdeenshire community.
He said: “We have 10 people working at Stonehaven Joinery Services and four of us are in the retained unit, so I can see it from both sides.
“For employers there’s obviously a challenge in having staff suddenly respond to an emergency and it means the odd meeting gets missed, but people understand it’s important and are generally very supportive of those who ensure their community is protected.
“Being a retained firefighter is a very, very rewarding role and even after 40 years it’s something I still enjoy. It’s a cracking job – there’s no career like it and I plan to be in the service for a few years yet.
“I would definitely recommend anyone who thinks they could provide a vital emergency service finds out more and considers applying.”
Many rural and remote areas throughout Scotland are protected by RDS firefighters and further information is available at www.firescotland.gov.uk/work-with-us/join-us-as-a-retained-firefighter, with vacancies advertised on the myjobscotland website.
In return for their commitment RDS firefighters are paid an annual retainer as well as additional payments for every incident attended and the time they spend at training nights and working to engage communities.