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Convoy of UK firefighters deliver vital equipment to Ukrainian fire crews

The largest convoy from UK Fire and Rescue Services to date successfully delivered essential firefighting equipment to Ukrainian counterparts last week.

On Monday 22nd April, six fire appliances left South Wales Fire and Rescue Service in the early hours of the morning to join a convoy carrying more than 2,800 pieces of equipment donated by UK Fire and Rescue Services.

The scale of the latest convoy travelling to Ukraine was unprecedented; comprising 33 Fire and Rescue vehicles which included two mechanics vehicles, an HGV, 20 fire appliances, eight incident command units, one aerial ladder platform, and one 4×4 vehicle.

The Home Office – working in partnership with FIRE AID, The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) National Resilience, English and Welsh Fire and Rescue Services (FRSs), and the Fire Industry Association – sponsored the delivery of the equipment.

18 volunteers from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service joined a total of over 100 volunteers who departed from Kent on Tuesday 23rd April, making the journey of more than 1,000 miles across the course of the week. 

Ukrainian Fire and Rescue Services have been decimated by the impact of the war against Russia, whilst the demands placed upon them have soared. Figures as of 10th April 2024 state that 396 Ukrainian firehouses have been destroyed, with 92 more now in occupied territory. 1,676 fire vehicles have been destroyed, 91 Firefighters have been killed, with a further 349 injured, and five held in captivity. Meanwhile, the work of Ukrainian Firefighters has grown significantly since the start of the war, with approximately 217,000 buildings destroyed or damaged, 18,270 fires eliminated and 4,975 people rescued.

The convoy delivered over 2,800 pieces of equipment including ladders, breathing apparatus sets, firefighting and ancillary equipment, road traffic collision equipment, boats, fire and water PPE, and safe working at height kit.

The equipment consisted of donations of de-commissioned or surplus equipment from the UK which is at the end of its policy shelf life but is still safe and useable. Every donation is serviced and checked before it is deployed. In the past, such equipment would have been sent for scrap, but through FIRE AID, many items are being reused and re-purposed around the world in countries where they are vitally needed.

Dean Loader, Director for Service Delivery at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“It’s quite startling to see the impact of the devastation since the war in Ukraine started, and we feel a sense of responsibility to our international Fire and Rescue Service colleagues to assist where we can. We’ve always had a charitable approach in South Wales, and the vehicles and equipment which we donated would’ve been sold or scrapped as part end-of-life disposal, so we feel they’re going to much better use, aiding those who really need it.

“Following a previous convoy last year, we invited a Ukrainian team to compete in our UK Rescue Operation (UKRO) competition in Lincoln. These connections we forge can last a lifetime, and we’re really pleased to have been able to take part in this convoy.”

Darren Cleaves, member of the South Wales team and the International Search and Rescue (ISAR) convoy management team, added:

“This was my second convoy to Ukraine, and I was just as eager to be involved. The UK Government Minister for Policing and Fire, Chris Philp, joined us in Kent and spoke to the volunteers at length, emphasising how worthwhile he thought the mission was.

“It was a long four days travelling across Europe, we covered 1,286 miles from South Wales FRS HQ to the drop off point, but our team was absolutely fantastic, and the value of the mission cannot be understated. It takes a certain strength to leave loved ones behind and travel to the outskirts of a warzone. Obviously, safety was paramount, and all volunteers were heavily briefed prior to departure, but we were all glad to make it back to home soil on Saturday after such an incredible mission.”

Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire, Chris Philp MP said:

“Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine has taken a toll on the brave people of Ukraine’s Fire and Rescue Services, who have not just seen their equipment and buildings decimated, but also led to the loss of many heroic Firefighter’s lives.

“We are now in the third year of this senseless conflict and today’s donation shows our determination to support the people of Ukraine remains as strong as ever. Every western country must do everything they possibly can – big and small – to help Ukraine defeat Russia’s invasion. We cannot allow aggression to win.

“I am immensely proud of this contribution and want to extend my gratitude to colleagues within the UK Fire and Rescue Services who have donated equipment and will ensure the convoy’s safe passage.”

FIRE AID’s Chair, David O’Neill MBE, said:

“I am delighted that the UK fire sector is once again coming together to support Firefighters in Ukraine. This will be our seventh convoy of equipment since the full-scale war broke out and tragically, we are seeing Firefighters being targeted more and more. Just recently three Firefighters were killed during an air strike along with an entire fire station and all its equipment.

“We know this donation will help support stations across Ukraine who have lost all their equipment and enable them to continue their vital support to their communities in their hour of need. The impact that our donations are already having in Ukraine is clear, but it provides more than physical protection for firefighters; it shows they are not alone and gives them hope and courage to continue risking their own lives to save others.”

FIRE AID Coordinator in Ukraine, Oksana Romanukha, said:

“As part of Fire Aid, we have been working with the State Emergency Service of Ukraine for more than 10 years now, but never has the need and impact been so obvious as it has been in the last two years.

“The efforts of Ukrainian firefighters since the full-scale war began has been nothing short of
extraordinary. What makes their resilience and dedication stronger is that they haven’t been left alone in this fight and have a reliable shoulder of support from their British colleagues.”