Friday, 6 July 2012

Royal reception for ‘Op Florian’ volunteers

Operation Florian successfully delivered two East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service fire engines on their recent trip to Macedonia.

Once again, volunteers were greeted like royalty when they arrived to hand over both the engines and to provide hands-on training to local firefighters.

Operation Florian is a UK Fire Service Humanitarian Charity that works to promote the protection of life amongst worldwide communities in need of equipment and training to improve fire fighting and rescue capabilities. The charity is run almost entirely by volunteers, most of whom are members of the emergency services.

The country of Macedonia will benefit greatly from East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s donation, and has now received a total of seven appliances through the charity. Some towns in the country have not received any fire fighting equipment for 15 years and call upon volunteers and local residents to assist in the event of a fire or rescue. Some areas do not even have access to vital breathing apparatus.

Each year the volunteers head to different locations which are desperately short of fire engines and this year it was the turn of Resen, located in the south of the country near to the border of Greece. The second appliance was delivered to Debar, in the west of the country near to the border of Albania.

As East Sussex was gearing up for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations the Op Florian team were preparing for their humanitarian trip.

ESFRS Chief Fire Officer & Chief Executive Des Prichard stayed for four days and liaised with heads of Government, as well as handing over water rescue equipment to the Red Cross and the appliance keys to the local Mayor.

After the Chief’s departure other team members stayed on for another two weeks to provide intensive firefighting training, including using the fire engine’s ladders as well as the breathing apparatus equipment.

Former firefighter, Community Volunteer and Regional Co-ordinator for Operation Florian, Trevor Green, said: “They were absolutely delighted with the equipment and the training they received. Before we arrived there they only had one working BA set and by the time we left they had nine.

“It meant that they could get into buildings that were smoke-logged and, with our ladders, they could gain access to third floors and had a pump which could provide water at high pressure.”

A Macedonian restaurant in Sussex helped to raise £1000 for the trip and the proprietor was there to help deliver a fire engine to his former village south of Resen, where the volunteers were greeted with rapturous applause after the whole village turned out.

Trevor added: “It is a very humbling experience going out there and to see what little they have. They are so generous, inviting us to their homes and laying on a huge spread which we know they can ill-afford.

“We hope to go back next May and provide further training for the firefighters on RTC equipment.”

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