Firefighters in South America are to receive a donation of around 25 full sets of PPE, thanks to the efforts of a Fife-based charity and Michelin Dundee.
Staff at the International Fire & Rescue Association (IFRA) collected the protective equipment from the recently closed factory on Friday.
IFRA, based in Thornton, Fife, is a specialist charity which sends fire service equipment and vehicles to fire services, coastguards, police and special needs schools in 21 countries worldwide.
David Kay, director of IFRA, said: “There are around 25 full sets of PPE – which is the full uniform that a firefighter would wear – from the fire helmet to the tunics and leggings, as well as boots, gloves and first aid response kits.
“The equipment that we were picking up in Dundee is probably going to be going to South America, who are being hit really, really hard right now with the pandemic.
“On top of the stuff that we’ve got from Michelin, on Tuesday we will go to Stratheden Hospital near Cupar and collect almost a whole hospital’s worth of equipment, stick it in a container and send it down to Ecuador too.
“Most of the countries that we help have only volunteer firefighters. There are some places that have paid firefighters – but they don’t get the support from the government.
“Us sending 25 sets of PPE, in the big scheme of things, probably won’t sound a lot. But if I tell you that these guys are running into fires wearing flip-flops and overalls, that’s the difference. They deserve the same level of protection.”
The team at IFRA do everything, from sourcing the kit, checking it over and sending it, to then flying down and training people in how to use it properly.
David said: “The equipment that we’ve picked up from Michelin, for instance, we have taken it down to our base in Fife and have started looking through it, making sure it’s all in good condition.
“It was almost new – for an industrial fire brigade to be so proactive and have quite new kit is unusual. Michelin obviously took the safety of their fire team seriously. So it’s actually already bagged and tagged and ready to be sent.
“If we get three broken things and we can make one good thing out of them, that’s what we do.”
Despite the challenges that the pandemic has presented them with, they still have around five or six projects in progress.
“The amount of stuff we’ve got going on right now – even with Covid-19 – has been quite phenomenal. We have around five or six projects going on at the moment. We’re talking Eastern Europe, Africa, North America and South America,” David said.
“We’ve been as far as Palestine in the East and Argentine in the West. When I started it in 2001, I was expecting to send just one fire engine away a year.
“In the middle of March we were actually preparing to send away our hundredth vehicle, which is still sitting in our base in Thornton in Fife.
“That is a bit disappointing actually because, since then, we’ve got more vehicles to send out. So when the pandemic finishes, I’ll be able to send out the hundredth, the hundredth and first etc, relatively quickly.”
David, who is also a crew commander in the fire service stationed at Dunfermline, says that the charity has enjoyed a good relationship with Michelin over the years, largely due to the fact his father, Alan, worked there for around a decade.
The factory closed its gates on June 30, after almost half a century of tyre production.
“Michelin Dundee have been dealing with us for a few years now,” he said.
“Because my father worked there and because the boss was very proactive aswell, anything they’ve had they’ve given us in the past. We have had a really good relationship with them.
“When all of this equipment came up, my dad was one of the guys that went up to collect it.”
David added: “Legally we can’t hand second-hand kit to firefighters here in the UK, but across the world that’s not the case.
“If they’re not getting any protection, this equipment makes all the difference. It means we can keep firefighters alive in other countries, so that they can do their jobs and protect people.”
Anyone wishing to donate to IFRA, to help them through these difficult times, can do so by clicking this link.