Jersey old fire engines on their way to Zimbabwe

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TWO old fire engines which were part of an arsenal of vehicles used by the Jersey Fire and Rescue Service could soon be on their way to Africa to help improve the emergency response in Zimbabwe.

Volunteers from Operation Florian – a UK Fire Service humanitarian charity which provides equipment and training to communities in need around the world – were in Jersey yesterday to look them over.

Jersey Fire and Rescue Station Commander Mark Bosdet says the charity, which takes its name from St Florian – the patron saint of firefighters, has bought the two engines, but would not divulge how much for.

‘From our point of view we are very pleased that the fire engines are going to a good place and that they will carry on for a reasonable life,’ he said.

Jersey Fire and Rescue has recently bought two new appliances which cost about £300,000 each.

Retired firefighters Bernard Lees and Gary Hagson from Manchester devote their time Operation Florian.

Mr Lees, who has been an Operation Florian volunteer since 1993, says the charity has been working with the emergency services in Zimbabwe for more than six years.

‘We first received a request from Bulawayo, the second biggest city in the country and its industrial hub,’ he said. ‘We are are rolling out the project across Zimbabwe to all the major cities and this is where they will most probably end up going to,’ he said.

Operation Florian was set up in 1995 to provide much-needed fire fighting equipment to the former Yugoslavian states of Bosnia and Croatia after much of it was lost in the civil wars that tore through the region in the 1990s.

Mr Hagson says as fire engines are made for a specific purpose, they have a very low resale value. However, when they come to the end of their working life in the UK they can be of use in developing countries for up to another 30 years.

Before being shipped to Zimbabwe, Mr Hagson says the charity will ensure that the Jersey fire engines will have a purposeful life.

Operation Florian insists that the recipients have to make a financial commitment, such as covering the cost of transporting the vehicles.

‘The projects have to be self-sustaining, otherwise if we just give it to somebody they might not look after it so they have to have some kind of input into our projects,’ Mr Hagson said.

‘It has got to be a two-way relationship and they have to have something to input into the projects.’