FIREFIGHTERS have face down a "toxic storm" as part of a crucial chemical spill exercise that recreated what would be a catastrophic scenario.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service personnel donned hazardous materials suits to perform a snatch rescue of dummies at a contaminated unit.

Hazardous waste firm Total Recycling Services, based off Darlington's Lingfield Way, hosted an exercise simulating a boron trifluoride chemical leak, which is flammable, corrosive and emits toxic gas.

Mark Storrie of Total Recycling Services said: “The fire service had originally come down to view the site and told us they’d love to undertake some hazardous waste drills with us, and we were more than happy to accommodate them.

He added: “The area is classed as contaminated and if a person was not pulled out in time, it could be fatal.

“We need to know how to react in situations like this and by working with the fire service we can determine what they need from the site if there was an emergency, how we would contain it, what the impacts would be to the wider community and how to inform our neighbours.

“Ultimately, it helps us write a more detailed and specific emergency plan. With the input from them we can work as a company to provide exactly what the emergency services would need.”

Dave Glendenning, Darlington Community Fire Station district manager, added the realistic training was invaluable.

He said: “We hold information on commercial risks throughout the town, Total being one of our high-risk sites. The opportunity to train together to get an understanding of each other’s procedures is crucial to make sure that we have appropriate plans in place for this site.

“Training like this is hugely important. Thankfully, hazardous material incidents are rare, but if something does go wrong the effects could prove significant."