Ballyclare is always pleased when we are able to support the fire and rescue community. Over the years we have donated protective clothing to charities and countries across the world to help protect firefighters who often wear badly maintained kit, or no protective kit at all.
One charity we work with is the International Fire and Rescue Association (IFRA) that has been helping fire and emergency services worldwide since 2002. We recently received a convoy report from IFRA which included how donated kit from Ballyclare has made a real difference to crews at several fire stations in Argentina.
Ballyclare Limited is a British designer, manufacturer and distributor of high quality, functional workwear, protective clothing and specialist PPE. We are a trusted producer of structural and specialist firefighting kit and protective clothing for the emergency services and armed forces as well as supplying managed services encompassing garment supply, leasing, repair and laundering.
For more information about the IFRA take a look at their website www.ifra.co.uk.
Convoy 56 Argentina
Monday 5th October
Left Jersey early evening hope this isn’t a sign of how the mission is gonna go. Delayed for what we were told was a technical hitch but then eventually the police boarded the plane to arrest somebody. Bit of drama. Because of this I missed my coach and when I did get to Heathrow left luggage was closed, bit of a walk with all my kit. Eventually got to my mums at 1:00am had a beer then bed.
Tuesday 6th October
Woke up feeling ok. Had a few things to do this morning to get ready for the off. Planning to meet Ben at 5:30am at Terminal 3. Met up with Ben ok and checked in. Managed to get some seats with extra leg room which will make a massive difference. 12 hour flight squashed into a seat is not fun. Went through customs and had a beer while we caught up on what we’d been doing for the past year. Boarded and settled down for the night.
Wednesday 7th October
Arrived in Brazil at 5:30am local time. Flight over was not a good one but we pretty much expected that. Worked our way through immigration and made our way onto Terminal 3 for the flight into Córdoba Argentina. Had a bit of breakfast while we waited and some fantastic coffee, very nice. Me and Ben talked about the delivery of training and how we are going to manage 70 odd firefighters between two of us. Not sure how yet but we will work It out. Was met by Ricco and Matias at Córdoba, from there it was a four hour trip to Merlo. Chatted for a good part of it as there was a lot to catch up on but eventually the tiredness caught up and I nodded off. When we got to station there was only a few lads around as it was the ‘Our Lady of the Rosary’ Saint’s Day and most of the watch was at the church. Had a shower and sorted our kit out then went to chat with the lads for a bit. As everyone was out Ricco took us to eat at his house. That was a good idea as the station would not eat until 11:00pm-ish and we really needed some sleep. It was good to meet with Abby again (Ricco’s wife) we had a tour round the house as last year it had only just been built so a lot of work had taken place. Matias joined us and we had a nice dinner and chatted about tomorrow. Afterwards went back to station, the lads were back but not for long as they turned out to a car fire. Ben was knackered and went to bed I stayed up chatting for a bit and then turned in after the lads got back.
Thursday 8th October
Got up at 7:00am after a good sleep. Ben was already up; think he woke himself up talking with himself in his sleep. Had breakfast with the duty watch. Ricco and Abby turned up on their way to work and had a brew and a chat. Walter also came in to say hello it was great to see him. Abby translated for us as we talked about our year since our last visit. A lot has happened to Walter, mainly him retiring as chief and passing the reins over to Matias. He made us feel extremely welcomed again and made us feel part of the Bomberos family. For my part it doesn’t feel like we have been away and it’s nice to feel at home and be relaxed.
Today we are visiting other stations around the region. It will be interesting to see how far they have moved on with their operational development and how the stations have moved on with their construction. Me, Matias, Ben and Yago are doing the trip. Yago is our translator, his English is good and Abby says it will be good experience for him. She is his English teacher. First stop Villa del Carmen. Last year this station was just starting out they had no kit what’s so ever. The only thing they had was three beaters. It’s not often you get to see the result of what IFRA actually does. The donated kit from Ballyclare has made a massive difference.
The transformation was in incredibly humbling. They now have a small truck with a small pump and adapted water container for the water supply. Fire kit and basic firefighting kit. The transformation was amazing. What’s most satisfyingly about this is hearing the stories of how they are helping their communities and the people they are helping to save. Although there is a long way to go for Ville Del Carmen they are moving in the right direction.
Next up was the town of Papagallos. This is a new station that is only a year old. Thirteen firefighters man this station. Again as they are starting out it is very basic with very little in the way of kit. We had a look at the truck which is believe to be 60 years old but still has a working pump although all the print has worn off the gauges. Fire kit that they did have (not enough for everyone have to share) is leather and in a bad way.
Villa Larca was the next region we visited. Although the station had not had any more building work done on it (due to funds) they have just taken delivery of a new truck. Very little equipment but still a very much needed vehicle for the town.
We went on to Los Molles to view the station and then onto Carpinteria. Carpinteria have been busy with a lot of work. Good to see the stations that are working hard and moving forward. All this work is carried out by the Bomberos with taxes from the region and from donations from the community.
Friday 9th October
Today we are visiting the rest of the stations within the region. Rico, Matias and Walter are with us today. Can’t believe the weather wind and rain and very cold 9 degrees. There is snow in the mountains which is strange to see. It might snow in the town tomorrow as it is predicted. First stop is Naschel. This is another station that has moved forward during the past year. The day they took delivery of the fire kit that IFRA donated from Ballyclare they attended a large warehouse fire. Having decent fire kit made a big difference to their capability and how they dealt with the fire. It was refreshing to see the chief adopting an IRMP style about the risks that are local to them. RTC and swift water are the main risks that they encounter and it is good that they are actively trying to purchase equipment for this areas. Funds are slow here in Naschel but it is becoming better as the community can openly see the work they do and the development of the station.
Next up the town of Tilisarao. Good to see all the fire kit from IFRA/Ballyclare going to good use. They plan to extend and make good a large garage they have so they can rent it out to raise some extra cash. Last month they lost a truck to a large open land fire. The wind changed direction and rapidly surrounded the appliance and crew. Eventually, after being trapped inside for a spell, the crew had to jump out and run through the advancing fire or be consumed by the flames. Although they made it through to a place of safety all four received burns. The worst having burns to the face. They are on the mend but it might be some time before they return to duty.
Renca. Lots of development within the station. They have a close working relationship with Merlo and have received one of their old vehicles, an appliance sold to them at a very cheap rate from Merlo. Good, moving forward and planning to develop further.
Concaran: Not much happened here not sure why a little bit of construction. Truck donated/sold to them by Merlo. Big drill here tomorrow night. 50 firefighters and a big field. What can go wrong?
Santa Rosa: Met by the chief the governor and all the local administration that run Santa Rosa. All the Bomberos and Carlos and his sister who were from Chicago so acted as our translators. This was also our lunch stop. A full on sit down meal with all the dignitaries. Food was great as normal and we talked over lunch (three hours worth) about how the station had taken on board our advice from last year. They have concentrated on sorting out their PPE and delivery of training to become more competent. Further grow in the station and ways of generating more money to help support the Bomberos. Still in talks with national government to try and sort out better funding. After lunch we were interviewed by the local TV station about our time in Argentina and the training we are delivering. We were presented with some gifts and an engraved tea set for Davie. Ben will have to deliver that hehe. Our time was cut short as we needed to get back as the lads from Merlo were very busy trying to sort out all those that were stuck on the mountain that had gone up to see the snow.
It’s still really cold. Drill went well with more hazmat lectures. Spent an hour on the ERG book and then did some practical exercises. Went very well nice to see the info is getting through.
Saturday 10th October
Had a much need lie in this morning until 9:00am. Still really cold and a lot of snow in the mountains. This is causing a lot of grief for the Bomberos with people sliding off the road and in some cases down the side of the mountain. We left to set up the day’s drills at midday. Today we are drilling at Concaran In a field opposite the station. We have 50 plus Bomberos and only me and Ben. The plan is to run a hazmat drill involving a tanker and two cars which have caught fire. The other half of the crew will be doing various tasks competing against one another.
Basically get themselves from A to B and all their kit with minimum assistance. Shark infested custard type of thing.
The drills were ok and the competition stuff went down a treat as the lads are very competitive. The fires in the cars were meant to be burnt with wood but me and Ben didn’t notice the mass of tires that went on. You can guess the rest.
Sunday 11th October
The longest day. We started at 9:00am and we finished at 6:00pm. Although we stopped for lunch for an hour and a half it was a killer. We covered hazmat and collapsed structures. They had set up a simulation that had a building had collapsed with access via a trench. Me and Ben pulled the plug on the trench as it was very dangerous. Lots of debate about it but we couldn’t allow it. After three and a half hours of lecture we got to work in the drills. It was refreshing to see the command and control starting to kick in. They are not used to working in large teams so this made it even more pleasing to see. Dinner tonight is Asado (BBQ). I managed to get a couple of hours sleep as I’m Knackered. Tomorrow we continue at 9:00am.
Monday 12th October
Today we did some basic FBT and door entry which Ben took and I did search and rescue with them. Covered left and right hand search and basic BA. It went well with a lot of them remembering what we did last year. Afterwards we had some lunch and then the presentation of the certificates as this was the last days training. We had a couple of hours to kill so we drove into the mountains to see the snow that had now melted. It was very cold up there but the views were spectacular. Later that evening we did a radio interview that is run by the Bomberos from Merlo. Lots of questions about IFRA and what we do. It’s a weekly program just related to fire stuff. After that we had dinner at Ricco’s with his wife Gabby and Matias. Got to bed at 1:00am very tied.
Tuesday 13th October
Got up at 8:00am and had a bit of breakfast. We had another interview to do at a radio station we did last year. 15 minutes with the same sort of questions then done. Went up to look at the springs from last year only this time it was too cold to go for a dip. Although the sun is out now it’s still a bit cold. Rafael and Luis are coming down to collect us and take us back. Tomorrow we start it all over again. Met with Damien and Jose and all the lads and lassies from the station. They had prepared Asado which took until midnight so another late dinner for us but normal for Argentina. Had to leave and get zzz after we eat so tired.
Wednesday 14th October
Up at 8:00am for breakfast then on to San Luis capital for a TV interview on a morning breakfast program called Unbuena Manama then onto a local paper for another interview. After that we covered command and control. From the sound of it we will be delivering only classroom based training. That’s a lot of presentations. I can see we are gonna have to write some more as we are absolutely going to run out. The subject matter we were told we would be giving is not what is being given. But that’s normal.
Thursday 15th October
Breakfast followed by the same routine. Visiting stations around the province and lots of media duties. The difference in equipment and conditions between each station is vast. Some really needing a lot of work on them others are ok. It was promising to hear that the regional governors have promised to invest in the development of stations if elected.
Training was another 4.5 hour session. We continued with the command structure this time looking at risk assessment. We mixed this up with some practical exercises where they were split into teams and given the task of carry out a RA on the building we were in. This was also used to consider the same building being involved in fire. The results were very satisfying as there was a good grasp on the process by most.
Friday 16th October
First stop La Punta. We visited the rest of the stations in the province La Punta and two whole time stations nearby. Station No.2 is Police which is in a football stadium. After that we went to the chief’s station which is Station No.1. This is where Rafael is based. It was good to see him as we have not had a lot of time to chat.
Lunch at 1.30pm then training from 3:00pm, gonna do some FBT and a dolls house. Looking forward to it.
Saturday 17th October
We had to be up early to make it back into town where we would be training at Station No.5. Today was mainly police and we were due to train all day with them. There was a change in subject matter and we delivered incident command training.
Sunday 18 October
Most is the morning was made up of the presentation of certificates to everyone and lots of speeches. Afterwards we went to lunch with Damian and Guillermo where we talked about future trips away and the possibility of them visiting the UK for training.
Monday 19 October
Bit of a wasted day. We hung around for most of it waiting to leave not really knowing what was going on. Eventually we left at 3:30 pm. We stopped along the way and visited another station about 100k outside of Petrero in a town call San Francisco. Chatted to the lads and toured the station. We arrived in Merlo at 8:00pm, it was a long journey. Everybody was here to see us Ernesto and his wife came down and stayed to eat with us. More beef which was very good again. More speeches and presentations then done. Looking forward to going home, been a long trip the extra days have made a big difference.
Tuesday 20 October
Didn’t do a lot today just hung about. Went into town for coffee and to do a bit of shopping. Packed again for the last time made sure we were ready for the off tomorrow. We are going to leave about 8:00am ish and have some lunch at Córdoba flight is at 5:30pm. Another IFRA mission done and a massive difference made and it’s when you come back you realise how much all these countries need IFRA and its supporters.
For more information, go to www.ifra.co.uk