‘We were anxious’: Firefighter recalls dealing with Sheffield floods one year on

Despite heavy rain, November 7 last year was meant to be a night to remember for thousands of music fans across Sheffield as Meadowhall Christmas Live was set to be held in a sold-out concert.

Friday, 6th November 2020, 11:21 am

But for 43-year-old firefighter Shayne Tottie from the Doncaster District Command, the job he had to do was just another routine as he supported the police and other partners in planning the event on-site amid the downpour.

Little did he know the torrential rain that battered the region that night could be devastating and cause so much damage in just a matter of hours.

Recounting the incident, the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Group Manager said the water rose quite rapidly in the area a few hours before the concert was about to start.

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Firefighters rescuing the flood victims last year.

He said: "The concert was due to start around 7pm and we held a strategic meeting at 4pm. At that point, we started to get phone calls that traffic at Meadowhall was building up.

"We were wondering if the concert was still going ahead as we were told by our partners that it was too dangerous.”

Sheffield had its wettest November day since 2000 when a month's rain fell in 24 hours.

The deluge left roads and railways submerged, caused the River Don to burst its banks and left shoppers and workers stranded in Meadowhall where the Christmas lights switch-on was cancelled at the last minute.

Firefighters rescuing the stranded animals.

Mr Tottie, who has been on the job for more than 20 years, said he had never experienced having to deal with such a situation although he was directly involved with other national incidents like the severe flooding in Cockermouth, Somerset years ago.

"Looking at the flood waters and the volume, with the speed of water and the way it rose and how quickly it came in and disoriented the land as we were going to several locations to rescue..we were anxious, it was dangerous," he said.

He said he never experienced such significant amounts of hours on duty and having to deal with several incidents within hours and putting firefighters and the crews at risk.

"What felt like a really small area but having to deal with several incidents within an hour it was very busy.

"There was a significant number of hours and calls, localised flooding and rescues from individuals, it was busy for what felt like 36 to 48 hours," he said.

He said what affected him the most while rescuing was to see how much devastation the flood caused to the people, who had experienced another major flooding in 2007.

"To be there to support and rescue and to do what is needed, that is my job. There were a lot of vulnerable people who were affected by floods in 2007 and this affected their livelihood yet again.

"That part really got to me. It seems like you can't do enough and that is the hardest part of the job," he said.

He however commended the partnership approach from the police to local authorities, who did an amazing job and are still doing the recovery work until today.