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UK fire services gives a helping hand to fellow firefighters

UK fire services have provided a big support to their European colleagues
Shropshire's Deputy Chief Fire Officer John Redmond hands over fire appliances to a Bulgarian fire official

Shropshire brigade transported two fire engines, two Ranger vehicles, a minibus, cutting equipment and fire kit hundreds of miles across eastern Europe.

UK fire brigades have come to the rescue of European firefighting colleagues with the delivery of much needed vehicles, equipment and uniforms in a co-ordinated mission organised by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service. The Shropshire brigade transported two fire engines, two Ranger vehicles, a minibus, cutting equipment and fire kit hundreds of miles across Europe to less well off firefighters in Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Three orphanages also had smoke alarms fitted after being donated by a Shropshire firm and children received football kit from Shrewsbury FC. A total of 25 firefighters, control room operators, admin staff and fire authority members from Shropshire visited the countries as part of a week long education swap financed through the EC's Lifelong Learning Programme.

Shropshire's Assistant Chief Fire Officer Steve Worrall said it had been a long and arduous journey to deliver the equipment, collected in Shropshire and from other brigades, which had come to the end of its "useful life" in the UK but which was much needed abroad. Cutting equipment to release victims of car crashes had been "non-existent" in Ruse on the Bulgarian border with Romania until the arrival of new equipment and firefighters were taught how to use it. Ladder training techniques to rescue people from the top of high rise buildings were also swapped along with incident command and pump and hose training.

Education swap between firefighters has raised the bar of 'working and knowledge' in the fire service industry

Community Fire Safety Officer Kate Hancocks was interviewed on the TV news in Poland where it is unusual to have women firefighters. Students from Telford College training for a job in the uniformed services also went on the 1,200 mile trip to Poland learn from the once in a lifetime travel experience.

Michelle Phizacklea (correct), from ECOTEC which coordinate European funding of the Leonardo Staff Exchange Programme, said there were wide benefits to the exchange trip. Knowledge gained from the education swap would "cascade" to colleagues in Shropshire who are committed to the professional development of their staff.

Stuart West, chairman of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority, said they had been to fire and rescue services "run on a shoestring" where they "had very little." But the Shropshire brigade had learned from their innovation and in turn had provided help to them, he said. 

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