Exmouth firefighters rescue stranded motorists trapped in blizzard

PUBLISHED: 14:21 06 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:27 10 June 2010

EXMOUTH firefighters last night helped rescue motorists stranded in the snow when blizzard conditions meant drivers were forced to stop on Haldon Hill.

EXMOUTH firefighters last night helped rescue motorists stranded in the snow when blizzard conditions meant drivers were forced to stop on Haldon Hill.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service sent crews in 4x4 ranger vehicles after more than 200 vehicles became stranded on Haldon Hill and also the M5 service station area.

When heavy snow started falling from 9pm two fire engines and fire service ranger vehicles from Exmouth, Exeter, Dawlish and Bovey Tracey were called in to help locate motorists, particularly lone drivers, who had become stranded. They were then taken to rest centres which had been set up at Chudleigh town hall and Exeter Racecourse.

The treacherous conditions meant that the operation to ferry the motorists to safety took several hours.

In a separate incident, a fire crew from North Tawton transported a pregnant woman expecting twins to hospital in their fire engine when she went into labour.

The fire appliance fitted with snow chains was the only vehicle that was able to reach her due to heavy snowfall.

A Sea King helicopter dispatched from Chivenor had to turn back due to the bad weather and an ambulance could not get through due to the deep snow.

Watch manager Twiggy Lake said: "It was a difficult journey due to the conditions and it took 30-40 minutes to get to the hospital.

"We were prepared to deliver the babies on the appliance if we had to but we were relieved when we got to the hospital in the nick of time."

The woman gave birth to twin girls safely at Okehampton hospital but the crew was forced to stay at the hospital for several hours due to the worsening conditions.

Fire crews also assisted with taking blankets and other provisions to a rest centre set up at Okehampton College for motorists who had to leave the A30.

The fire service is making preparations in case of further bad weather across Devon and Somerset tonight.

Fire service 4x4 vehicles have been strategically positioned to assist the ambulance service with inaccessible and vulnerable patients and casualties.

Appliances and equipment have also been strategically placed in known areas of risk and where vehicles tend to get stranded.

Many off-duty officers have made themselves available to support operations if required.

The fire service is issuing the following advice to road users:

* Consider how urgent your journey is before leaving home if the roads are icy or covered with snow. Leave additional time to complete your journey and take additional warm clothing with you in the vehicle for use in case of emergencies.

* Make sure that your lights and wipers are working correctly. Make sure that your tyres are in good condition and within legal parameters.

* Wear hi-vis clothing if you do have to leave your vehicle. Carry a torch in your vehicle also for use in an emergency.

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