Report on Serendipity Group Meeting - International Fire Training Centre and Transporter Bridge, Wednesday, 19 October 2016

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After a trouble-free journey up the A1, we arrived at the International Fire Training Centre around 9.30am. The centre is located at Durham Tees Valley Airport, which used to be a Royal Air Force base. We were given tea/coffee and biscuits before being taken to the training area, where we watched several groups of fire fighters at work (from, I think, Saudi Arabia and Poland). No sooner did they put out one fire than the trainers started another one up. They use a variety of accelerants, including liquid propane and aviation fuel. The IFTC are very keen on protecting the environment and try hard to reduce the impact of their activities on the local area; they're on good terms with all the farmers surrounding their nineteen acres. The IFTC always examine wind speed and direction before creating the fires and treat most of the waste on-site. They recycle unburnt fuel and they manage to re-use 97% of the water used in training exercises. Although it was a bright morning, it got quite chilly standing around for a couple of hours, so by midday it was nice to be back in their Embers restaurant, where we enjoyed an excellent, yet very reasonably priced, two-course lunch. It was only a 20-minute journey to the Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough, and although it rained briefly during our lunch break, the weather brightened up by the time we took the glass viewing lift to the upper walkway of the bridge. It was quite breezy as we walked across the river, at a height that I would rather not know. Most people went back down in the lift, but four of us decided to take the guide up on his offer to escort us down the 'Staircase Challenge'. It was quite narrow right at the top, but then it soon widened out. We were told there was a cafe nearby, but unfortunately it closed at 3.00pm (about 10 seconds before our coach pulled up outside), but it didn't matter, because our driver, Ian, found us a great little cafe about five miles down the A19.

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