Mission to Africa for Ray and Steve

A GROUP of globe-trotting firefighters have returned from a charity trip to Kenya.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 12th November 2011, 11:00 am

Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service (BLFRS) transport and engineering manager Ray Willett organised the visit to Meru and Maua, which saw the 20-strong group spending two weeks in the country last month.

The two-week visit followed the donation of four fire engines to Kenya by the Bedfordshire Combined Fire Authority (CFA).

One was sent back in 2009 and three others followed in July this year.

Among the BLFRS firefighters who accompanied Gamlingay resident Ray was retained Potton firefighter Steve Highland, who said the trip had been productive, enjoyable and highly rewarding.

Steve, 55, who lives in Blackbird Street, Potton, and other firefighters trained fire brigades in the use of various equipment including tools that they use to free people from cars and of course the water cannons themselves.

They also organised training exercises so that firefighters in the region could improve their efficiency and response times.

Steve, who has been a firefighter for 19 years, said: “Although there are fire engines and firefighters who are normally available to deal with fires in the area, response times are not always very quick and in the past there have been fatalities and serious damage to buildings that might have been preventable.

“We split up into groups, went to different areas and we stayed in a compound of bungalows while were there.”

Although there is a fire service in the area there are not many fire engines or stations so the brigades are not quite as prevalent as they are in the UK, Steve said.

On the occasions that the firefighters from the two countries drove around the area in fire engines with the sirens sounding and lights flashing they received some strange looks.

He added: “We helped the local firefighters to improve their drills and response procedures.

“Communication can be an issue so we emphasised the need for people to shout where necessary and to give clear instructions and commands to one another.

“We actually organised an exercise one day where the firefighters took it in turns to wear blindfolds and give each other instructions in a mock drill which was quite effective.”

Steve – who has lived in Potton for 25 years and is married to Janie with three children – also took other items with him that were donated by organisations in Chronicle Country.

He said: “Stotfold Football Club kindly donated 100 football shirts which we gave to a school, while Smiles Orthodontics in Biggleswade gave us 100 toothbrushes which we also handed out.”

The group now hope to return to Kenya next year and donate a second-hand ambulance to the region.

For more information on the appeal or to help out see www.fireengines4kenya.co.uk