Bosnia mission for Scots firefighters

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Fife duo help develop the Cazin Fire Department.

Pictured (left to right) - Lukas Belina, Graham Campbell, Gary Johnstone, Lord Lieutenant of Fife Mrs Margaret Dean, Chief Officer Alasdair Hay, Area Manager Iain Vincent and ACO Peter Murray.

Scottish firefighters have helped to improve the safety of people in Bosnia as part of an International Fire and Rescue Association’s (IFRA) mission to Cazin, a town near the border with fellow former Yugoslav republic Croatia.

Crew Manager Gary Johnstone and Firefighter Lukas Belina joined a team from around the UK in a mission to improve fire safety in the Balkan state, which is still recovering from the horrors of brutal wars and ethnic cleansing during the 1990s.

They took with them decommissioned equipment that, although no longer worn by SFRS crews, is immensely valuable to firefighters in Bosnia.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Chief Officer Alasdair Hay and Assistant Chief Officer Peter Murray were at Dunfermline Fire Station to see the team begin their 3,000 mile round-trip.

Chief Officer Hay said: “I am delighted Gary and Lukas were able to join the international team and represent the new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service on a mission to help our colleagues in Bosnia-Herzegovina to develop their fire and rescue skills.

“Firefighters around the world share not only a mutual respect for the challenges they face in protecting their communities, but also a deep friendship that benefits people both at home and abroad.

“By building strong relationships between services in different countries, specialist knowledge is shared between professional firefighters with a great wealth of expertise.

“I’m sure the firefighters of Cazin will have developed their skills as a result of our team’s efforts, but it is also likely that Gary and Lukas saw ways of doing things that could be used to benefit communities in Scotland.”

SFRS Crew Manager Gary Johnstone, who is usually based at St. Andrew’s, served as the IFRA convoy commander. Tayport Firefighter Lukas Belina joined his team, along-with Watch Manager Sharon Bouckley of the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Instructor Graham Campbell of Dundee University.

Crew Manager Johnstone said: “This was the 45th International Fire and Rescue Association operation worldwide and the seventh to visit Bosnia. It is a hugely worthwhile trip and on behalf of the team I would like to thank the firefighters and people of Cazin for their warm welcome.

“We provided protective equipment to the Bosnian colleagues who were operating with only four sets between 17 firefighters. Once they were kitted-out we assessed their skills and devised a training programme specific to their needs.”

Over nine days, Bosnian personnel from five stations were trained in a range of operational duties – from fireground signals, first aid and using breathing apparatus to procedures for search and rescue, incidents involving hazardous materials, and road traffic collisions. The team also conducted community safety visits to a number of schools.

The training culminated in the centre of Cazin, which had been completely closed off for a simulated fire and rescue operation. The exercise was followed by a second scenario involving a petrol tanker, allowing the Bosnian firefighters to put their new knowledge into practice.

Picture courtesy of the Cazin Municipal Government.