By Matt D’Arcy
A small West Coast community association has arranged to have their local Bombeiros in Aljezur presented with the gift of a staggering €50,000 worth of firefighting and rescue equipment.
Aljezur Fire Chief, Mário Costa, declared as he and his men unpacked the huge shipment from UK Fire Services Charity Operation Florian: “This is going to save lives. Some people who would have died in accidents and fires will live because we now have this equipment with us as we deal with life-threatening emergencies.”
The huge operation to source and deliver this equipment to the Aljezur Bombeiros began as a collaboration between local residents’ association AMOVATE (Association of Residents and Friends of Vale da Telha) and the Shepperton Aurora Rotary Club in the UK.
The equipment was officially handed over at a special ceremony in the Headquarters of Aljezur Bombeiros on September 26.
Guests included the Presidents of Aljezur Câmara and its four associated Juntas, the District Commissioner of the Bombeiros, Doreen Pipe, President of Shepperton Aurora Rotary, Mike Thomas and Steve Darby of Operation Florian, GNR Commander Gabriel Reis and Amovate President Peter Johnson.
Amovate’s Ian Bedford and Dave Good, the latter also a member of Shepperton Aurora Rotary in Surrey, began working together last February to bring the equipment over from the UK.
They immediately called on Operation Florian, a world-renowned charity set up by British firefighters in 1995, which donates surplus or part-used UK fire-fighting and rescue equipment to fire services in less well off countries.
Aljezur Bombeiros were deemed fit to qualify for this equipment which includes 100 uniforms, fire coats and Bunker pants (trousers), 100 pairs of fire boots, 50 helmets, generators, pumps, “jaws-of-life” cutting tools, all of it of the highest quality available anywhere.
Florian relies on donations from UK Fire Brigades and sometimes that will include new or nearly-new kit, as was the case here.
The Shepperton Aurora Rotary’s Dave Good, who has a holiday home in Vale da Telha, was first to get the ball rolling early this year. He suggested to Amovate that they should explore the possibility of arranging the donation of equipment to the local Bombeiros, who operate under tight financial restraints in one of the poorest of the Algarve Câmaras.
From that suggestion grew that overwhelming co-ordinated response from Florian, Shepperton Aurora Rotary, Amovate, Lancashire Fire & Rescue and Algarve-based shipping and removals company Direct Transport.
Amovate contacted Direct Transport in Porches to handle the transportation. But once the company heard what was involved and that the Bombeiros would be the beneficiaries they immediately and generously waived 50% of the costs.
So, following almost seven months of planning, Aljezur Bombeiros became the beneficiaries of what Florian’s Mike Thomas believes is the first time in 10 years that so much brand new kit has been given in one donation.
“More than 80% of the fire coats and trousers are brand new, and these alone cost around €400 a set,” he revealed.
Portugal does not have a central buying/purchasing unit for the fire service. Each fire station buys the basic equipment from different suppliers – what counts most is the price. The only common items to be shared by different fire stations are hose connectors.
Fire Chief Mário Costa said: “We are so grateful that Amovate and its members, and the people back in England who have all made it possible, have worked so hard and done so much to make this happen. The people of Aljezur owe you all a huge ‘obrigado’!”
Davide Costa, who works with both the Bombeiros and the force’s ambulance service, added: “We had just one tool for cutting people free from cars and in a multiple pile-up – which unfortunately is something we do have to deal with every now and again – we have to make a choice of which vehicle to deal with first. Now, with these extra cutting tools we can get people quickly out of three vehicles, all at the same time.”
Before this huge consignment of kit and equipment arrived the Aljezur Bombeiros owned just 15 fire-fighting suits, jackets, trousers and helmets, which had to be passed between the firefighters as they ended and started their shifts.
Now, said Davide, each firefighter will have his own set of equipment which means an even more efficient way of dealing with major fires.
Although the entire municipality of Aljezur has just 5,884 inhabitants, the Bombeiros have to cover a huge area of 324sq kilometres across four parishes, Odeceixe, Rogil, Aljezur itself and Bordeira.