The front of Hever Castle was teeming with fire engines, fire cars and firefighters on Tuesday 2 November while the heritage site was closed to the public.
But thankfully this was not a real fire at the childhood home of Anne Boleyn but a training exercise designed to test emergency procedures and salvage plans.
Crews and appliances from Sevenoaks, Thames-side, Westerham, Ash-cum Ridley and Tunbridge Wells attended the mock incident using water from the river and moat, rescued ‘casualties’ with smoke hoods, and salvaged important artefacts from the castle.
Six appliances, 3 officers and 31 firefighters took part in the mock incident with Castle staff practising their evacuation procedures and staff from other departments acting as visitors.
Kent Fire and Rescue confirmed that should there be a real fire, the inner moat of the Castle contained 9 hours worth of water.
Alison Palmer, Curatorial and Conservation Care Coordinator said: “Hosting an exercise like this is an extremely important part of ensuring the future survival of any historic house and collection. We can only plan so much for such a devastating event, but unless we run these kind of practice events from time to time, we will never know if our plans will truly work when needed the most. We also need to have the utmost confidence in those that are trained to deal with such events. It was great to work closely with Kent Fire and Rescue on this exercise.”
House Manager Roland Smith added: “This was an excellence opportunity for Hever Castle to work in partnership with Kent Fire and Rescue to test out our procedures for protecting this iconic building and the contents for future generations. A huge thanks to Kent Fire and Rescue for giving us this opportunity.”
Steve Inglis, Station Manager at KFRS said: “Protecting the county’s heritage is a vital part of what we do. We work alongside Kent’s historical sites to ensure full plans are always in place in the event of a fire, and all training scenarios have been designed specifically for each historical building.
“The exercise at Hever Castle tested both crews and Hever Castle staff in a range of different scenarios, but everything went well and our firefighters and staff are prepared in the event of an emergency.”