Heat is on for RFA Argus as she tackles Caribbean 'fires'

While many of their shipmates were ashore in the British Virgin Islands dealing with (mock) disaster, crew of RFA Argus were keeping raging fires in check.

The support ship – flagship of the UK’s force in the Caribbean on stand-by for the hurricane season – tested the ability of those on board to cope with serious blazes in separate parts of the 28,000-tonne vessel.

The heat of the Caribbean made for a particularly grueling exercise as teams donned the heavy fire suits and ran out hoses to respond to ‘fires’ in Argus’ sprawling hangar – home to three Merlin and one Wildcat helicopter when undergoing maintenance, plus their supporting kit and engineering teams – and Argus’ engine rooms, whose generators power all electrical systems aboard and main powerplants drive the ship along at up to 18 knots.

All ships allocate sailors to a Standing Sea Emergency Party – at immediate notice to respond to fire, flood or other major incidents on board, buying their shipmates time to get kitted up, ready to join them.

Heat is on for RFA Argus as she tackles Caribbean 'fires'

Exercises like this are vital. We all have to practise working together as a team in tough conditions, and it was definitely beneficial

RFA Steward Carl ‘Taff’ Richards

RFA Steward Carl ‘Taff’ Richards was part of Fire Response Party One, which required him to put on thick protective clothing ready to fight a fire. He said: “We were hose-handlers helping the Standing Sea Emergency Party fight the fire. The exercise went well but it really was boiling! Luckily water was handed out to keep us all going.”

The exercise saw members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary crew working side by side with some of the Royal Navy units embarked on board. Taff said: “Exercises like this are vital. We all have to practise working together as a team in tough conditions, and it was definitely beneficial.”

Working in company with HMS Medway, the UK’s permanent naval presence in the Caribbean, RFA Argus – which doubles as a helicopter support vessel and floating hospital facility – will be in the region until the tail end of the year, providing reassurance to residents of British Overseas Territories and supporting the US Coast Guard and other international agencies in the ongoing fight against drug trafficking.