A FIRE brigade’s top officer has been defended by a colleague after driving his car into floodwater.

Motorists have recently been urged by North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to steer clear of water, but its chief fire officer Nigel Hutchinson came to a grinding halt in his 4X4 BMW X5 after hitting water on rural lanes between Easingwold and Boroughbridge.

The area had seen several roads closed the previous week, with access to Helperby becoming limited, as water poured off saturated fields and the River Swale burst its banks at Thornton Bridge for the second time in three months.

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Dave McCabe, the brigade’s head of policy and protection, said Mr Hutchinson had been on his way to a meeting last Thursday when his car broke down in water that was “only a few inches deep”, as other vehicles passed through the flood.

He said: “I think it was a reasonable assessment to make, but unfortunately, his vehicle broke down.

“I think it was a mechanical defect which may have been exacerbated by floodwater.

"He got on his fire boots and walked to the side of the road, and I understand he called a colleague, who came to pick him up and take him to the meeting.”

He said a garage recovery firm was called in to recover the vehicle, which Mr Hutchinson leases from the brigade, so there was no need for firefighters to assist.

A brigade spokesman said in September: “There are high levels of standing water on the roads, therefore motorists should avoid driving through any floodwater and only make journeys if absolutely necessary until the weather conditions improve.”

On November 5, the service said it had attended several incidents recently where motorists and their vehicles had become trapped in flood water, and issued tips including: “If you can’t tell how deep the water is, back up and find an alternative route.”

Similar warnings were issued three days before Mr Hutchinson became stuck.

Asked if Mr Hutchinson was embarrassed by what had happened, Mr McCabe said: “I don’t know how he feels, but if it happened to me, I would feel the irony of it.”

Steve Howley, of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “I’m sure he finds it slightly embarrassing, however, there was no real harm done, and it is quite amusing.”