03 Feb Gambian fire service celebrates 30th year of link up with UK counterpart
The Gambian fire service is celebrating a 30 year partnership with a UK counterpart, based in Avon.
The Gambia and Avon Fire Services in Partnership (GAFSIP) was established by firefighter Dave Hutchings. Hutchings witnessed a fatal road crash whilst visiting the country in 1991, and witnessed the local firefighters struggling with a lack of basic equipment.
The partnership establishes common learning and sees fire engines and lifesaving equipment donated and training given to Gambian firefighters.
In an interview with the BBC, Hutchings said: “I’m absolutely delighted that it’s still running.”
At the beginning of the partnership, there were only two fire stations and 87 firefighters but that has now evolved to 12 operational stations and 1,200 firefighters.
Hutchings continued: “There are six rescue-boat stations, all stations have clinics and a new station is set to open later this year. 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.”
Avon Fire and Rescue donates essential equipment including engines, rescue boats and clothing, but they also share their latest training and learning too. On a recent visit to Gambia, Hutchings alongside firefighter Paul Kirk joined chief fire officer Mick Crennell and other firefighters to see the effects of the partnership.
Hutchings explained: “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.”
Kirk added: “They think that last year alone, 65 peoples’ lives were saved by the fire service so it is making quite a dramatic difference.”