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Cumbria fire engine is saving lives in Africa

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A decommissioned fire engine from Cumbria donated to a local fire brigade in The Gambia has already helped save a life.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) donated the fire engine, which had seen 20 years of service and was in working order, to Kotu fire station in the Senna Gambia region of the African country.

CFRS Watch Manager Willy Watson arranged for the fire engine to be shipped out in December and it safely arrived in West Africa last month. Willy secured additional donations, which included organising a charity music festival in the garden of his Coniston home, to meet the shipping costs.

Local firefighters from Kotu recently used the fire engine to attend a road traffic accident, deploying cutting equipment to release a woman trapped in a vehicle and save her life.

Willy organised the fire engine donation after visiting Kotu fire station while on holiday in the West African country two years ago.

He returned on holiday in January 2020 and gave up his own time to oversee the handover of the fire engine and deliver some training to Kotu firefighters.

Willy said: “I drove the fire engine from the port to Kotu where I handed it over to the local fire station. They made it quite an occasion, inviting the deputy interior minister and the local TV station too. I wanted to make sure it arrived safely and I was really proud to be there for the handover, representing Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service. A lot of people have helped with this donation and I’d like to thank everyone for their support. The old fire engine at Kotu has gone to another fire station which didn’t have a pump, so it’s been doubly beneficial.”

Cllr Janet Willis, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for Fire and Rescue, said: “I’m so pleased we donated one of our redundant fire engines to a fire station in Gambia so they could replace an older and increasingly unreliable pump. I know Willy Watson played a leading role in making this happen and I’d like to thank him for his fund-raising efforts which meant the fire engine was shipped to The Gambia at no expense to the county council. Willy has shown commendable community spirit which typifies our firefighters in Cumbria.”

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