IT is a scenario that may actually appeal to residents of St Albans' Cathedral Quarter the abbey bell-ringers silenced for an evening and trapped in the roof of the nave.

But it was only a training exercise for the district's firefighters. However, that did not detract from the seriousness of operations on Tuesday, September 11.

Most major buildings have a fire plan which is effected in times of emergency and the abbey's was being tested to its limits by more than 70 firefighters in ten appliances who arrived in dramatic style just after 7.30pm and began an extremely precise salvage and rescue operation.

With a hydraulic platform hoisting four firefighters more than 100 feet into the air and onto the roof of the abbey it became clear that this was far more than another routine training procedure.

Armed with a hand-held thermal imaging camera relaying pictures back to a control unit parked in the St Albans School car park, firemen searching the roof were quickly able to detect the two "live" casualties and then the two dummies.

With these brought safely back down to earth, Exercise Holy Smoke had fulfilled its primary objective and all that remained was to evacuate 15 of the more valuable items.

Station Officer Stuart Crichton proclaimed the operation a success.

He said: "It was a very useful exercise and the cathedral's fire plan will be thoroughly evaluated as a result and may be updated."