Firefighters have been working with members of the armed forces at Melton on how to react when military animals come into contact with hazardous materials.
More than 20 crew members from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service visited the town’s Defence Animal Training Regiment (DATR) base for a one-day workshop.
One of the scenarios they worked through was a military working horse being covered in an ‘unknown chemical’.
The service personnel and firefighters considered the processes used in the decontamination of horses and dogs and tried out different procedures throughout the day.
Major Drew Tootal, the Second-In-Command at the DATR, said: “This was a first for both of us.
“The aim was to understand what the processes are, should any animals come into accidental contact with a hazardous material.
“It could be as simple as a dog coming into contact with a fuel oil, such as diesel, during a search.
“Readiness comes through training and both sides have taken away several learning points that we will use to develop training.”
With a committed staff of equine trainers, the DATR routinely has over 200 military working horses on site.
The horse scenario during the workshop saw instructions given by the incident commander, crew manager Ainsley Burton, after a military horse handler and his horse had come into contact with an unknown substance.
The military handler had to dry clean as much of the ‘chemical’ off the horse and himself before they both entered a shower. This was built using a hose strung up between two fire engines.
Firefighter Mr Burton said: “It was an interesting day and a very big learning curve for everyone. It was also an opportunity for the army to see the equipment we have and our capabilities. It was a really good test of our own operational procedures.”
The second stage of the scenario saw firefighters, wearing full protective suits, treat a further two contaminated horses. They had the added problem of one horse not wanting to enter the shower.
The second scenario saw a Military Working Dog and his handler who had also come into contact with an unknown chemical during a search task put through a mobile decontamination tent that would be used for humans. The firefighters gave directions to the dog handler through the screens built into the tent.
Major Tootal added: “It gives us the opportunity to see how our animals would react, and how we can best care for them in an emergency, which for us is just as important as keeping our soldiers safe.”