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Largest UK Fire and Rescue Service convoy to date heads for Ukraine

30 April 2024

CO-ORDINATED BY disaster response and support specialist FIRE AID, the latest convoy of potentially life-saving Fire and Rescue Service equipment is in transit to Ukraine to support Ukrainian firefighters as they continue to operate so bravely amid the ongoing conflict with Russia.

In what is the largest convoy sent from the UK to date, no fewer than 33 Fire and Rescue Service vehicles, two mechanics’ vehicles and an HGV carrying upwards of 2,800 pieces of vital equipment donated by UK Fire and Rescue Services departed from Ashford Fire Station in Kent on 23 April.

Among the Fire and Rescue vehicles are 20 fire engines, eight incident command units, one aerial ladder platform and one four-by-four vehicle.

The Home Office has been working in partnership with FIRE AID, National Fire Chiefs Council National Resilience, English and Welsh Fire and Rescue Services and the Fire Industry Association (FIA) in sponsoring and enabling the delivery of the equipment, which includes ladders, sets of breathing apparatus, boats, fire and water PPE and safe working at height kit.

This latest convoy is supported by 100 volunteers drawn from the Fire and Rescue Services and FIRE AID. It adds to the 89 surplus Fire and Rescue Service vehicles and more than 190,000 items of equipment sent to Ukraine via six previous road convoys and a rail shipment since the full-scale Ukraine-Russia war began back in 2022.

The 15 Fire and Rescue Services from England and Wales participating in the convoy are Bedfordshire, Cheshire, the Cleveland Fire Brigade, Hereford and Worcester, the London Fire Brigade, Merseyside, Mid and West Wales, North Wales, Northumberland, South Wales, South Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Surrey, Tyne and Wear and the West Midlands Fire Service.

Services decimated

Ukrainian Fire and Rescue Services have been decimated by the impact of the war, while the demands placed upon them have skyrocketed as a result of the conflict. To date, 396 firehouses have been destroyed, with 92 more now in occupied territory. 1,676 fire vehicles have been wiped out. 91 firefighters have been killed, with a further 349 injured, while five are held in captivity.

Meanwhile, the work of Ukrainian firefighters themselves has grown significantly since the beginning of the conflict, with approximately 217,000 buildings destroyed or damaged, 18,270 structures eliminated by fire and 4,975 individuals rescued.

National Fire Chiefs Council chair Mark Hardingham explained: “We’ve witnessed the sheer strength and resilience of Ukrainian firefighters since the day the war began. With the war continuing and the tasks before Ukraine’s firefighters increasingly challenging, the UK and international firefighter community will continue to provide support however we can. The efforts expended to bring this equipment together, and deliver it to where it’s most needed, demonstrate the very best traits of the UK’s Fire and Rescue Services.”

Chris Philp, the Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire who attended the convoy’s send-off event at Ashford Fire Station, explained: “Putin’s barbaric invasion has taken a huge toll on the brave people of Ukraine’s Fire and Rescue Services, They have seen their equipment and buildings destroyed. They’ve also witnessed many of their heroic colleagues lose their lives.”

Philp added: “We are now in the third year of what is a senseless conflict. This latest donation of equipment shows that our determination to support the people of Ukraine remains as strong as ever. Every western country must do everything it possibly can to help Ukraine defeat Russia’s invasion. We absolutely cannot allow aggression to win.”

In conclusion, Philp observed: “I’m immensely proud of this contribution and want to extend my gratitude to colleagues within the UK’s Fire and Rescue Services who’ve donated equipment and will ensure the convoy’s safe passage.”

Vital support

FIRE AID chair David O’Neill MBE said: “I’m delighted that the UK’s dedicated fire sector is once again joining forces in support of the brave firefighters in Ukraine. This is our seventh convoy of equipment since the full-scale war broke out. Tragically, we’re seeing firefighters being targeted more and more. Just recently, three firefighters were killed during an air strike, while an entire fire station and all of its equipment was destroyed.”  

Further, O’Neill stated: “We know this donation will help to support fire stations across Ukraine and enable the firefighters working from them to continue their vital support for communities in the latter’s hour of need. The impact that our donations are already having in Ukraine is clear. They provide more than physical protection for firefighters. The donations also show Ukraine’s firefighters that they’re not alone and afford them hope and courage to continue risking their own lives to save those of others.”

Oksana Romanukha, FIRE AID’s co-ordinator in Ukraine, commented: “As part of FIRE AID, we’ve been working with the State Emergency Service of Ukraine for more than ten years now, but never has the need and impact been so obvious than across the last two years.”

Romanukha added: “The efforts of Ukrainian firefighters since the full-scale war began have been nothing short of extraordinary. What makes their resilience and dedication stronger is that they haven't been left alone in this fight. They have a reliable support emanating from their British colleagues.”

FIA CEO Ian Moore said: “The project goal of enhancing the safety of Ukrainian firefighters has proven pivotal in the success of this team to deliver vital aid once again. The Fire Industry Association takes great pride in ensuring that the donated equipment mirrors the exceptional standards upheld by the UK’s fire industry and benefits Fire and Rescue Services on the global stage.”

All donations typically include an element of familiarisation training. There will be a short training session for Polish and Ukrainian firefighters when the convoy reaches its end destination.