New helicopter training zone receives the green light

Firefighters tackle a simulated helicopter fire at the new CDDFRS facility in Bowburn.
Firefighters tackle a simulated helicopter fire at the new CDDFRS facility in Bowburn.

Offshore workers from around the UK and beyond can learn how to tackle helicopter and helideck fires in County Durham after a new training zone has been given the green light.

The state-of-the-art facility is based at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service’s (CDDFRS) training centre in Bowburn and features a helicopter simulator along with a full-size helideck.

It is made up of a three-storey mock offshore platform rig with internal structures to mirror those on an offshore installation.

OPITO, the oil and gas industry training body, has given the training zone accreditation (in June 2024) to offer a full range of emergency response courses.

The centre hopes the OPITO backing will attract thousands of offshore workers from across the UK and globally to train in offshore emergency response.

The training facility is a joint venture between 3t Training Services, the UK’s largest energy sector training provider, and Vital Fire Solutions, the trading arm of CDDFRS, following a six-figure investment.

Director Rob Cherrie, from CDDFRS, said: “I really cannot stress enough how vital this new equipment and the enhanced training it offers will be to people working in the offshore sector. 

"When you’re offshore, you can’t just dial 999 and expect immediate assistance.

“Offshore Firefighters are more likely than others to face scenarios such as helicopter fires or pressurised oil fires, so individuals need to be well-trained and self-sufficient when dealing with these scenarios. 

“Utilising our wealth of experience in firefighting training, teamed with our state-of-the-art technology here at our training centre, we are able to give those offshore workers with firefighting responsibilities the skills they need to cope with the worst-case scenarios.”

He added: “This training zone is a fantastic asset to the region and we hope there will be a good knock on effect for the local economy, helping to keep local hotels, inns and restaurants busy.

“Already it has created two full-time and several part-time jobs at VFS with more on the horizon.

“We also utilised local companies and contractors during the building of the training zone.”

Emma Howorth, general manager for England at 3t Training Services, said: “We are delighted to receive our latest OPITO approval and would like to thank everyone for all their hard work in making this happen.

“This centre can now offer courses such as Helideck Emergency Response Team Member (HERTM) and Helideck Response Team Leader (HERTL), which are critically important to offshore safety.
“This facility provides a valuable resource for the region and will no doubt attract people to the area from much further afield.”