Column: Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association team’s record year for call-outs across district

The team responding to a call out
The team responding to a call out

For the fourth year running we have found ourselves dealing with a record number of rescues across the district. We also found ourselves called out to assist in rescues further afield and most notably to the devastating floods in Cumbria and York.

Some 57 call-outs were made, breaking 2014’s record of 50 and it was the eighth year out of the last nine where records were broken. The call-outs totalled some 1,805 man hours. The team, consisting of 60 highly trained volunteers, were stretched to the limit over a two-month period in late summer with a staggering 19 call outs and a further four incidents where the team were stood down at our Grassington headquarters. Even when faced with such extraordinary demands, and with many happening during working hours in our employments, the team controllers still managed to deploy teams and in doing so maintained our proud record of meeting every request for assistance by the police over our 67 years of service to the public.

Phill Nelson, one of the team’s controllers, said: “The incidents were spread across a wide range rather than any specific category.

“Dealing with fatalities has seen a significant reduction with three last year. It is hard to draw conclusions but we feel our policy of striving to acquire state of the art communications technology has certainly enhanced our call out and indeed search systems, as have our casualty care training and qualifications systems which, being run by NHS professionals from within the team, gives every single member a high level of such skills.”

Searching for vulnerable people missing from their communities was also down last year to just three, having been through a period that averaged 14 such incidents a year.

A most welcome statistic for the third year running was that no call-outs were needed on Christmas Day, much to the relief of our families. Although our swift water team having just returned from the Cumbria floods were on standby to return over Christmas but in the event found themselves in York instead a few days later.

Climbers, cavers and mountain bikers featured on the lists but, as you would expect, walkers were the biggest category.

Phill added: “We had some 25 walker call outs, most with injuries, mainly lower leg of which 10 were broken ankles. We also pulled out one unfortunate man who was stuck in a bog, found a group of missing students as well as locating an overdue young family.

“The end of the year saw our swift water specialist team in action having been asked to support all the other rescue services initially in Carlisle and then in York and like other mountain rescue teams performed their tasks with distinction.

“We were so pleased to have been able to play our part. The expense of the earlier purchase of the kit and the boat, as well as the specialist training and individual qualifications, proved to have been a master stroke by our operational committee.”