A senior Shropshire fire officer is to be recognised with a national award for helping to equip and train some of the poorest firefighters in Europe.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Steve Worrall has been praised for his “inspirational” leadership in organising a series of county visits to the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania in the last several years.
Off duty firefighters and staff from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service have transported a vast range of essential equipment – including eleven fire engines – to remote fire brigades, some of which were still using pre-Second World War equipment.
Steve, a fire officer for almost 30 years, was prompted to act after witnessing the poor state of many of the rural and city brigades in Eastern Europe.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) he will receive the newly launched “Beyond the Call of Duty” award from Fire Magazine.
The overseas aid initiative was initially sponsored through European Commission Grant Aid but in recent years has been funded through a range of sponsorship and charity events run throughout Shropshire by fire and rescue staff.
They were also inundated with equipment after sending out an appeal to UK brigades for redundant fire appliances, fire kit, rescue equipment and smoke alarms. The teams Steve has led have donated equipment, replaced pre-war Russian fire engines and swapped their overalls for proper fire kit and provided specialist fire-fighting and rescue training.
In a remote villages in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania they trained local volunteer firefighters in modern road traffic collision extrication techniques and provided education in the use of smoke alarms. In Poland and Bulgaria they replaced old ‘cold-war’ fire engines and trained firefighters in how to use modern ladders and firefighting equipment.
A Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service truck stands by as firefighters train their counterparts in car rescues in Bulgaria
A total of four fire engines were delivered by Shropshire Fire and Rescue staff to Transylvania last October in support of the Prince of Wales Romanian based charity – The Mihai Eminescu Trust. Each trip is unique with a mixed array of staff from across the service using their free time and holidays to prepare the vehicles and take part in the journey.
On each trip, Steve encouraged teams to visit and help local charities. They visited children's homes and old peoples' care centres and raised thousands of pounds to give further help on their return.
Car washes, cake stalls, promise auctions and raffles raised enough money to give Christmas presents to children in five orphanages in Bulgaria and Romania and also every resident in an elderly person’s home in Transylvania - the first time many had received presents for more than a decade.
Shrewsbury Town Football Club donated football shirts for children and villagers in Bulgaria and Romania. Shropshire businesses sponsored the cost of transporting the fire engines.
Steve Worrall (front right)with colleagues delivering gifts to Romanian children at an orphanage
“These journeys have also been experiences of a lifetime for many of our staff, forming teams and friendships that make our service stronger,” said Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond.
“Steve's charity work goes beyond the call of duty. He has made a real difference.”