Firefighters head to The Gambia to train their African colleagues as part of charity partnership

The Gafsip trainers teamFirefighters in The Gambia are set to benefit from the skills and experience of crews from Avon Fire & Rescue Service.

Six firefighters from across the service will be heading to the African country for two weeks as part of the Gambia & Avon Fire Services in Partnership (GAFSIP) charity.

Firefighters Glenn Baker, Sally Evans, Dave Griffith-Salter, Craig Johnson and Paul Kirk along with recently retired Group Manager Chris Millard, will be joined by Scott Bates and Stephen Hill-Knight, who work for Airbus UK and will be training the Gambian crews in airfield crash and rescue techniques.

During the two week visit 140 firefighters, including 117 new recruits, officers and airport officer cadets, from across The Gambia will benefit from the training.

They will be taking part in sessions focusing on breathing apparatus skills, along with equipment and fire fighting procedures and hot fire training.

On Friday 19 November Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive Kevin Pearson and Councillor Colin Barrett, Avon Fire Authority Member for Bath & North East Somerset, will be the guests of honour at a ceremony to mark National Fire Service Day in The Gambia and will be presented with a top award.

In January AF&RS was awarded the insignia of Commander of the National Order of the Republic of The Gambia (CRG). This is the highest honour awarded by the President of The Gambia Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya A JJ Jammeh and recognises the work of the organisation, including Avon Fire Authority Members and AF&RS staff, to support the GAFSIP charity.

CFO/CE Kevin Pearson said: “The GAFSIP charity began almost 20 years ago and is widely supported by Avon Fire Authority members and AF&RS staff, who work tirelessly to raise money, fill containers with equipment to be shipped to The Gambia and provide training for the crews in the African country.

“This award gives excellent recognition to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in the charity and I am very much looking forward to receiving the honour and joining firefighters in The Gambia to mark the National Fire Service Day. “

The GAFSIP charity began in 1991 when Dave Hutchings, a former Chief Fire Officer at AF&RS, was on holiday in The Gambia. He witnessed a road traffic collision in which two adults and four children died because of a lack of rescue equipment available.

When he returned home he decided to try and make a difference by raising money to pay for equipment no longer being used in Avon to be shipped to The Gambia.

Since the project began The Gambian Government has built 12 new fire stations, with each division of the country now having its own fire and rescue service cover from the capital Banjul to Basse, the largest populated area. This has led to the creation of around 800 jobs.