firefighters, Avon hoses in The Gambia
Call the Fire Brigade in the tiny west African nation
of The Gambia, and you won't believe your eyes.
The red fire engine that
screams up your road is badged "Avon Fire Brigade".
on the fit young firefighters and the helmets on their heads are also from Avon.
fact, the entire country's firefighting kit started life on the streets of the
Inside Out West's cameras have followed the Avon fire trucks
3,000 miles, tracking an extraordinary story of life saving common sense.
West Country to West Africa
"Look at that, first
turn of the key, started first time. Makes you proud - worth coming just to see
fighters kitted out in Avon Fire and Rescue kit|
is chuffed to bits.
He should be - he's the Deputy Chief Fire Officer at
Avon Fire Brigade, and they're his trucks.
Because of European emissions
regulations, the trucks have to be taken off the road after 10 years in Bristol,
but there's still plenty of life left in them.
"This is Serekunda
Fire Station", says Jerry, standing outside a low building in a township
near the capital.
"Population 350,000. Until five years
ago, they had no fire station. People just died in fires.
have three trucks. It's life saving stuff."
So how did
the Avon trucks end up in West Africa?
Helping on holiday
on a holiday.
Sixteen years ago David Hutchings was travelling in The Gambia
and, being a fireman, he got friendly with the local fire boys.
The Gambia is situated on the West African coast. One and
a half million people live there.
The Gambia is one of
Africa's smallest countries. It has few natural resources and is very dependent
on peanut exports.
Since 1991 Avon Fire and Rescue Service
has been donating redundant fire appliances, fire and rescue equipment and firefighters'
clothing to The Gambia.
Over 40 fire and rescue vehicles,
breathing apparatus, accident rescue equipment, rope rescue sets and other vehicles
have been donated to the country's fire brigade.
As a result
of the partnership, The Gambian Government has provided eight new fire stations
so each area of the country now has fire and rescue cover from Banjul (the capital
of The Gambia) to Basse further north.
News and Avon Fire Brigade
"One night they called
me, there was a family trapped in a smashed car, and they had nothing to cut them
out with," he recalls.
He remembers feeling powerless to help, and
frustrated that back home his brigade threw away kit that would save lives here.
was, as it happens, the Chief Fire Officer.
When he got home, he started
From then, the official partnership was born.
the Gambian Brigade has 1,000 firefighters, 30 trucks, breathing kit, and cuts
families out of cars with no trouble.
"It's apolitical, just getting
on with the job 24-seven, and it makes you proud to be from Bristol."
couldn't be more right.
To see why, watch the film on BBC Inside Out West
on Friday February 9, 2007.
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