Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) hosted a visit from the Governor of Tharaka Nithi County and his County Secretaries for Infrastructure and Health from Kenya on Wednesday 21 February, as part of their continuing relationship with the Meru area that has seen a number of redundant fire appliances and fire equipment donated to the local Kenyan Fire Service.
At a special presentation during the visit Chief Fire Officer Paul Fuller CBE QFSM DL handed over the keys of a donated fire appliance to Governor Onesmus Muthomi Njuki. Also present were Ms Dorothy Igoki Kinyua CEC Finance, The Honourable Japeth Kereke Mibiuki and The Honourable Patrick Menene who are members of parliament. The appliance was recently retired from the fleet and will now be used in Tharaka Nithi County.
The Governor took the opportunity to invite the Chief Fire Officer and Raymond Willett (Retired BFRS Transport and Engineering Manager, who is also an on-call Firefighter at Kempston) to visit Kenya later this year to help the Service better understand the needs of their Kenyan colleagues.
Tharaka Nithi County covers some of the poorest parts of Kenya and lies about 70km from Meru Town. The county has very few financial resources because national government allocations are given according to the population size of the area. Tharaka has an existing Fire Service but only has an old fire appliance which is limited in its firefighting capacity – if, for example, a fire breaks out in a building with several floors, local Firefighters are limited in their ability to reach its upper storeys.
Tharaka Nithi Firefighters are happy to work with their Meru colleagues and will be supported by them. The Firefighters at Meru are looking forward to picking up the appliance from Mombasa, driving it to Tharaka and will provide additional training on the vehicle and in firefighting techniques.
The relationship between BFRS and Meru began in 2009 when Fredrick Akandi and the Onset Trust, a church-related charity in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, approached BFRS for assistance in purchasing a fire appliance to send to Meru, which, despite a population of 500,000, had no Fire Service at that time and where fire deaths were common. The Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Authority (BFRA) decided instead to donate a fully equipped fire engine that was being decommissioned along with additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the form of tunics, leggings, boots, and helmets, and much more in the way of operational equipment.
In March 2009 the Onset Trust and BFRS shipped the fire engine to Kenya and this was swiftly followed by volunteer Firefighters and transport professionals. This small team of three provided fire engine maintenance training in addition to recruiting ten new Firefighters and delivering firefighter training. The newly recruited firefighting team at Meru is still going strong some nine years later.
Since then other redundant appliances, PPE and operational equipment have also been shipped to Kenya to support the growing Kenyan fire service and have helped save many lives over the years. These fire appliances are now operating in Maua, Mombasa and Meru and members of the Onset Trust, Paramedics, Community Fire Safety Officers, Vehicle Technician’s and Firefighters have visited all three of these towns supporting not only Firefighters but the local community.
To date Kenyan authorities have taken delivery of four fire engines, one water carrier and a disaster response vehicle. In addition to the donated vehicles BFRS have donated over 60 complete sets of firefighting Breathing Apparatus (BA) and uniforms as well as about 10 tonnes of equipment, some of which is now also being used by Firefighters in Nairobi. This has enabled the Kenyan Fire Services to develop and respond to the variety of incidents similar to those that their UK counterparts already tackle as a matter of course.
Governor Onesmus Muthomi Njuki, said: “I would like to thank the Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer for their continued assistance to communities in Kenya. This generous support will continue to strengthen the capacity of our local Firefighters and make Tharaka Nithi County a safer community.”
Chief Fire Officer, Paul Fuller, added “It is important that our own appliances and equipment are kept up to date and inevitably our older vehicles have to be disposed of. We have a simple philosophy that lifesaving equipment which may no longer be of use here may continue to save lives for many years to come in Kenya”.
Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service would also like to acknowledge the help and cooperation they have received from the following companies that have supported the Fire Engines for Kenya Project, through the donation of Ladders from Supply Plus, Rescue Tools from Holmatro, Fire Kit from Ballyclare and Chassis Components from Brian Currie.