Saturday, March 25

The Gambia: Fire service’s link-up reaches 30th year

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Image source, Avon Fire and Rescue

A partnership linking West Country firefighters with their counterparts in an African nation is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Dave Hutchings founded the Gambia and Avon Fire Services in Partnership (GAFSIP) after witnessing a fatal road crash while on holiday there.

The project sees fire engines and lifesaving equipment donated and training given to Gambian firefighters.

“I’m absolutely delighted that it’s still running,” said Mr Hutchings.

After seeing a family die in the crash in the West African country in 1991 due to firefighters having a lack of basic equipment, the now-retired chief fire officer began making plans to support them.

At that time there were only two fire stations and 87 firefighters but thanks to the partnership, there are now 12 operational stations and 1,200 firefighters.

Image source, Avon Fire and Rescue

“There are six rescue-boat stations, all stations have clinics and a new station is set to open later this year,” said Mr Hutchings.

“What started with a winter holiday to the Gambia has truly made a difference to communities out there.

“It’s great to look back and see how far the charity has come in 30 years,” he added.

Avon Fire and Rescue donates engines, rescue boats, equipment and clothing, but the training they pass on is just as important.

Paul Kirk joined chief fire officer Mick Crennell and other firefighters on the most recent visit in November 2021, having not been able to travel the previous year due to the pandemic.

“The main focus of the trip was to train the trainers over there with this specialist equipment, so that they can go back to their fire stations and train the staff there, so that was really rewarding.

“They think that last year alone, 65 peoples’ lives were saved by the fire service so it is making quite a dramatic difference,” said Mr Kirk.

Image source, Avon Fire and Rescue

Dave Price has been on 13 visits to The Gambia and says it has become a “second home”.

“Every time I walk back into the country it’s ‘hi Dave’ or I speak to them on the phone and they ask ‘when are you coming back’?”, he added.

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