Firefighter Colin Bulawayo-bound

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A Skene firefighter is among four from Grampian set to travel to Aberdeen’s twin city of Bulawayo to train and improve firefighting and rescue capabilities in the African country.

Colin Devine, 47, who works at Grampian Fire & Rescue’s headquarters at North Anderson Drive, Aberdeen, will head out to Zimbabwe for three weeks on March 15 with Operation Florian - the UK fire service humanitarian charity.

Four Grampian Fire and Rescue Service firefighters will be amongst 14 from the UK in the Zimbabwean city from March 15 until 4 April.

Grampian members of the charity visited Bulawayo with Manchester colleagues last year, when they discovered the equipment being used was past its best and potentially-dangerous.

“I was out there last March and this is phase two of that visit,” said Colin, a father-of-five. “We took a lot of equipment over last year, including breathing aparatus, hydraulic cutting equipment and protective fire kit, because the communities out there had some stuff, but it was very old and quite dangerous.

“They didn’t have any breathing aparatus and their fire kit was very, very poor.

“Bulawayo used to seen as ‘the bread basket of Africa’ and was quite affluent, but since the troubles and change, it has suffered. It is trying very hard to get back up and running.

“Going to Bulawayo last year was a massive eye-opener for me and I realised just how lucky we are here with the equipment we’ve got.”

Operation Florian is donating two Scania fire appliances, uniforms and shoes, hydraulic equipment from fire services and oil companies throughout the UK, and first aid supplies.

“It is satisfying to achieve what we do when we’re out there,” said Colin, who began his career as a retained firefighter in 1987 and has been a wholetime firefighter for the last 10.

“They do a drill exercise for us at the end of our time there and to see them fully kitted out and demonstrating the skills we’ve shown them gives you a real buzz.”

* Members of Aberdeen City Council’s Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure Committee were this week considering a grant application for £2,000 from its International Twinning Budget towards the project being carried out by Operation Florian in Bulawayo. The money would be used for transportation costs.

On seeing how much training and assistance was needed, the team decided to return to Bulawayo and submitted an application for funding to support the return trip.