Three times as many people die in a fire in Romania than in the UK – a stark statistic which has led to a five year Shropshire led campaign to improve survival rates in the eastern European country.
A team of volunteers, both serving and retired staff from Shropshire and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Services set off for an eight day mission to Mures County in Romania on Wednesday (June 15)to donate much needed fire equipment and to provide aid to an “adopted” children’s refuge and old people’s home.
The aid convoy will travel 1,800 miles across eight countries to deliver three fire engines, two 4x4 support vehicles, equipment, fire kit and humanitarian aid to communities that will create new fire stations in Transylvania where rural areas have little fire cover. They will stop with fire colleagues along the way in Germany and Austria, with one Austrian fire officer joining the team for the remainder of the journey.
They will also continue their support of children and young mums in Targu Mures and for the elderly in Sighișoara Old People’s Home in Mures county where standards differ greatly to those of the UK.
They will decorate more rooms at the old people’s home, make preparations to build a play area for children for their next visit in October and pay for emergency dental treatment for one elderly resident. During their last visit they took a dental technician who carried out dental checks on all the residents. They have already bought TVs for all 20 bedrooms and carried out urgent repairs to make life easier for residents.
A total of four staff from Merseyside are joining five volunteers from Shropshire, who are members of the Shrewsbury based charity Operation Sabre.
Charity president Dr Steve Worrall, a retired Shropshire Assistant Chief Fire Officer, began the campaign five years ago after witnessing at first hand conditions in Romania, especially in rural areas.
Although standards have improved over the years, “there is still much work to be done. We can’t help everyone but we can help a few,” said Steve.
“It is always a humbling experience when we arrive in Romania and see how much they need this equipment which is no longer used in the UK.
“With the provision of modern UK fire engines, equipment, uniform, training and education, Mures firefighters are better equipped to perform their duties more efficiently, effectively and safely.
“Everyone has given up their spare time, raised money for the effort and taken holidays for the trip. We are looking forward to helping to train volunteer firefighters to use the equipment. We also have strong links with an old people’s home and children’s refuge which has very little funding and where we have carried out repairs and decorations and delivered equipment to help upgrade the buildings. We will take more toys for the children and locally knitted blankets for the elderly.”
The three redundant fire engines, all over 20 years old, were formally in service in Devon, and the 4x4 support vehicles saw service in Merseyside. The fire engines will be donated to the small villages of Faragau, Beica de Jos and Miercurea Nirajlui. Operation Sabre raises funds to fully equip and transport the vehicles that also carry more than two tonnes of humanitarian aid for the most vulnerable in Romanian society.
This will bring to 27 the number of UK redundant fire engines the charity has delivered to poor communities in Romania. There have also been several earlier aid deliveries to Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service over the past few years.
The convoy of vehicles will be “blessed” in a traditional ceremony just before midday on Wednesday, June 15 in Shrewsbury Quarry Park, opposite St Chads Church and next to the war memorial before they begin their journey.
On board will be “mountains” of children’s clothes and blankets knitted and crocheted by women from WI’s and Mothers’ Unions across Shropshire including Oswestry Knit for Life and Yockleton Knit and Natter.
The team’s progress can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.