Firefighters recall Easter 1998 floods as 20th anniversary is marked

09 April 2018
aerial photograph of Easter floods at Irthlingborough

​Firefighters who served with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service during the Easter flooding of 1998 have recalled their experiences as the 20th anniversary is marked across the county.

Steve Corcoran, now of Blue Watch at the Mounts, was an on-call firefighter at Towcester in 1998

“I was on duty when the first calls began to come in from Deanshanger and I saw how quickly things became stretched as more calls came to control.

“When the River Tove burst its banks and flooded the A508 road it took narrowboats off their moorings, including one where four people were thrown into the river. We were sent out to search for them and it was very lucky that they managed to get themselves out of the water.

“All that excess water then moved downstream towards Northampton, where my dad Kev was on duty as a full-time firefighter at the Mounts. It caused a lot of trouble in the town centre, and sadly two women died. The floods were devastating for all those affected.”

Mark Ainge, now an Area Manager, was a sub officer in charge of White Watch at Moulton fire station in 1998

“When the flooding hit, the really difficult days started on the Thursday, and gradually got worse on the Friday. I was on duty for the weekend, and spent the Saturday pumping out a garden centre at Billing Aquadrome. On the Sunday, we were pumping out commercial properties and house basements in the St James area, and I remember it snowing!

“I remember one station officer who was mobilised to the south of the county to check out the reports of flooding, and the water levels became so severe he ended up sitting on top of his car.

“The water level was so high in Northampton that it reached first floor level on St Leonard’s Road. I remember seeing boats and canoes parked by people’s houses, and the rugby field at BBOB had water up to the crossbar of the rugby posts.

“Sadly in all this two women died, and working in the flooding was challenging for everyone involved. Our crews worked tirelessly, with the crew at Thrapston later receiving a commendation for rescuing people from the flooded river at Polebrook, near Oundle.”

aerial view of 1998 Easter floods with the viaduct central

Les Allen, now Crew Manager at Burton Latimer fire station, was part of the crew there in 1998

“We were sent over from Burton Latimer as a relief crew, and because we knew what we were going to we had a chance to bring a change of clothes and also towels with us, and got changed in the back of the pump before leaving to go back to home station.

“When we arrived we were tasked what to do. As a leading fire fighter I was sent out in a rowing boat being towed by someone on a jet ski. As we pulled away I was still standing up and nearly fell out of the boat in front of what I remember as about 30 firefighters, police and ambulance workers.

“I was tasked to check on the residents of a block of flats in the St James area. When we got there I had to climb out of the boat and into water that was at least chest height. On the way there we were bouncing over the tops of submerged cars.

“When I entered the ground floor, I quickly became aware that the residents of two of the ground floor flats had moved upstairs to their neighbours, but they couldn’t account for the elderly resident of the other flat. I tried the door and found it was unlocked, so I went inside and unfortunately found the resident had sadly drowned in her home.

“I called it in, and remember closing the door to wait for the arrival of the police and other fire service officers. I can’t remember much else about the rest of the time spent there but do recall shouting at some kids we came across on the way back to the staging area. They thought it was fun to wade through the flood water next to the canal area and couldn’t see any of the dangers associated with flooded areas.”

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