Volunteers from an Edinburgh-based fire and rescue charity will feature on a documentary as they venture across Europe on a mission to deliver fire engines to Serbia.
Scottish Emergency Rescue Association’s (SERA) team of volunteers braved a 1500-mile road trip, with multiple breakdowns, to drive four retired fire engines and an ambulance across Europe to new homes in Serbia.
The 12 men and one woman, led by former station officer Gary Bennett from Barnton, spent a week there in May, also delivering vital lifesaving training to Serbian fire fighters.
“Stornoway to Serbia: Putting Out The Fire” will be shown on BBC ALBA tonight at 9pm.
Mr Bennett said: “We are at around 4500 lives saved as a result of this project since it began in 2007.”
He added that before embarking on the Serbia trip they’d spent six to nine months sourcing the retired engines, which had come to the end of their useful lives in Scotland, and would otherwise generally have been crushed. Then another eight months were spent getting them up to scratch before the multi-skilled volunteers from all over Scotland – a mix of retired, serving and retained fire fighters, mechanics, IT specialists and a police officer – took them on their long journey.
When in Serbia the team trained 50 local fire fighters to deal with road traffic collisions, to safely use hydraulic cutting gear and to operate breathing apparatus as well as basic search procedures and pump and ladder training. Members of the team also presented in schools on topics such as the dangers of smoke inhalation and the importance of fitting smoke detectors in homes – something not yet standard in Serbia.
“There’s quite a significant skills gap between firefighters in Scotland and those in Eastern Europe which is mainly because they don’t have the necessary equipment. For example when it comes to hydraulic rescue tools for cutting gear, in 2009 in Moldova they only had one set in the entire country whereas in comparison, Scotland probably had about 500 sets.”
Mr Bennett said when it comes to tackling road traffic accidents firefighters are faced with prising people out with crowbars, screwdrivers or perform roadside amputations.
“Amputations take place without anaesthetic,” added Mr Bennett. “It is pretty barbaric so being able to provide ambulances as well as tools, training and fire engines will help.
“To me this is not an aid thing. We are facilitating, we are empowering, we are equipping fire fighters – ordinary men and women – to do their job, to save the lives of ordinary adults and children.”
SERA, in partnership with Blythswood Care, has donated 50 vehicles to countries including Serbia, Romania, Moldova and Burundi.