SMOKE billowed across the decks of HMS Victory as fire alarms rang out across Portsmouth naval base today.
But thankfully the drama was merely an exercise to test the fire service’s response in case the worst happens to Lord Nelson’s flagship.
With blue lights flashing, firefighters descended on Portsmouth Historic Dockyard yesterday in response to a fictitious call-out to the warship.
An imaginary fire had taken hold of the lower deck and two people were unaccounted for inside.
The exercise was carried out to assess tactics, command procedures and communications with the Royal Navy.
The fire service’s group manager for Portsmouth, Dave Smith, said: ‘The exercise has gone really well overall.
‘When you look at what happened to the Cutty Sark, we wouldn’t want something like that to happen to HMS Victory so it’s important we are prepared.
‘HMS Victory is a Portsmouth icon so we need to ensure the ship is protected and that local crew are familiar with its layout, and given the opportunity to assess procedures and test emergency planning in the event of an incident on board the ship.’
The Cutty Sark is an historic clipper ship which suffered major damage when it caught fire in 2007.
Firefighters from Cosham, Southsea and Waterlooville used their aerial ladder platform to assess the fake fire on board HMS Victory, carefully negotiating ropes and steel cables which support the ship’s masts.
Meanwhile, crews went on board the ship with their breathing apparatus to rescue two dummies.
Navy and dockyard personnel who work on the warship relayed details of the fire to the crews as if it was real.
After two hours the incident was over, with the two casualties rescued.