Cheshire firefighters reflect on an emotional mission

Cheshire firefighters are back safely from an emotional and challenging rescue mission to a New Zealand city left devastated by an earthquake.

The seven, who are all members of the UK International Search and Rescue (ISAR) team, are now back after a 15-day operation in Christchurch.

Station Manager, Mark Coleman who was Operational Commander of the UK Team said: "When we were arrived we were met by a scene of total devastation - it was shocking to see what was obviously a thriving community silenced by such a traumatic event. We focused on using our specialist skills and training to try and locate any further casualties."

During their time in New Zealand the team searched and cleared three complete city blocks and also carried out searches on specific buildings.

This included a major operation around the collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation office block which had seen multiple rescues in the early stages.




















Mark explained: "We carried out a 150-hour search and rescue operation on the site. This involved a demanding a technical operation to deconstruct and search the whole building ensuring that any casualties could be recovered."

A number of aftershocks, some measuring as high as 5 on the Richter Scale proved especially challenging for the team.

Sadly the team found no survivors in the building. However, they did recover 13 bodies, which helped give closure to the families of the victims.

The tremendous efforts of the team have been appreciated by the New Zealand authorities and the people of Christchurch.

Mark concluded: "I don't think there was a single member of the UK team who did not at some time shed a tear. I think what touched us most was the encouragement, support and gratitude shown to us by the New Zealand people. Personally I will never forget either this mission or the people we met and I am really glad that we were able to make a difference and help them recover from this terrible event."

For more information about the team, their training and past missions please visit

Editors Notes. 

The following is some further facts that you may find useful.

The Mission.

  • A massive, 6.3 magnitude, earthquake hit the New Zealand city of Christchurch on February 21 (UK time). This caused widespread destruction, multiple deaths and hundreds of people reported as missing.
  • On Tuesday, February 22 the Cheshire ISAR team were requested by the Government to assist with an international search and rescue mission in Christchurch, New Zealand.
  • They were requested due to their specialist skills in search and rescue to help the New Zealand authorities in looking for survivors and casualties.

The Team.

  • They formed part of a 61 strong team from the UK.
  • The seven from Cheshire were:
    • Station manager, Mark Coleman, (Operations Commander) based at CFRS Headquarters in Winsford.
    • Station Manager, Stuart Devereux, based at CFRS HQ, (CheshireTeam Leader
    • Firefighter, Andy Hurst, from Winsford Fire Station
    • Crew Manager, Gareth Scott, Chester Fire Statio
    • Watch Manager Mark Bushell, Runcorn Fire Station
    • Crew Manager, Daryl Codling, Knutsford Fire Station
    • Watch Manager, Paul Bickerton, CFRS HQ





Date published: Fri, 26 Jul 2013 11:50:55 GMT