England

Jeremy Paxton's helicopter help for Wiltshire fire service

A millionaire businessman is giving his helicopter and time to operate a "flying fire engine" in Wiltshire.

Jeremy Paxton hopes to establish a Thunderbirds-style rescue network using private helicopter owners to assist fire services around the UK.

He has been flying helicopters for 30 years and has arranged a one-year trial with Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

During the trial, he will be on call for three days per week to assist with major incidents such as flooding.

Each callout will be funded entirely by Mr Paxton, who owns the Lower Mill Estate at the Cotswold Water Park on the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire border.

A spokesman for Wiltshire's fire service said the only cost to them would be time for staff training.

'Save many lives'

In the event of an incident, Mr Paxton will be messaged by the fire service and will fly to Chippenham or Trowbridge fire station.

There he will pick up two specialist firefighters and equipment before being deployed to the scene.

Mr Paxton said: "I was surprised when I found out that the fire service don't have their own airborne support so I offered to assist using my own helicopter and private resources, as well as the ability to be at the scene of an incident very quickly.

"If the trial is a success then I can see the benefits being rolled out nationwide from 2014 onwards."

Wiltshire Fire Service's chief, Simon Routh-Jones, said: "It can take an hour for fire tenders to cross the county to major incidents so involving Jeremy Paxton's helicopter could potentially save many lives."

The helicopter will be able to carry equipment to deal with four areas of emergency - deep water rescue, animal rescue, road traffic accidents and wild fires.

Items such as fire extinguishers, hydraulic rescue tools, animal harnesses and inflatable rescue paths will be carried in four custom-made pods, which can be fitted to the underside of the helicopter depending on the emergency callout.

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