One firefighter found himself on the wrong side of a rescue operation, when his own home was hit by the flooding in Cockermouth.

Back in 2009, Will Richardson, the operational commander for the fire service in Allerdale and Copeland, was Watch Manager at Whitehaven Fire Station.

As the waters began to rise on the morning of November 19 he was at a meeting in


“At about 11 in the morning, I got a call from home saying the water was closer than it had been in 2005,” he recalled.

“We lived in Bridge House right on Gote Bridge.

“I left the meeting and went home where I decided to move all the furniture upstairs. A couple of the managers came down at lunchtime to help me lift the furniture.”

But it was to get worse for Mr Richardson: “I got the rest of the family out to stay at friends and I just watched the water coming up the stairs until it was four feet deep.

“It was dark by then and my mobile phone was in my jacket in the downstairs cloakroom so I had to take my clothes off and wade through to get it.

“It was the only lifeline I had.

“While the rest of the Fire Service was dealing with everything I stayed there all night and was rescued the next day by the Coastguard when they thought Gote Bridge was going to collapse.”

Despite being forced to stay out of the rescue operation Will was kept aware of everything taking place.

He added: “We had firefighters in Cockermouth who were nearly washed away by the current. It was a horrendous time for everyone but we had volunteers, members of the public, who did an incredible job. Everyone really did work together.

“Bill Barker’s death was a tragedy. Early on we focused on what we were doing and perhaps felt proud of what we were doing but that really brought it home. It could have been any one of us on that bridge.It could have been a full fire truck or a van. Sadly it was Bill that was there.”