From 12 to 26 November, a team of 16 Belgian firefighters will be flying to Nepal to launch the country’s first fire academy. By providing training and the appropriate equipment, Brussels Airport and Firefighters4Nepal want to help Nepalese firefighters fight fire effectively but also strengthen the solidarity between firefighters worldwide.
‘Firefighters 4 Nepal’ was set up following a visit by firefighters from Brussels Airport to the Pokhara fire brigade in Nepal. During their visit, they were struck by the very simple and unsuitable clothes worn by their colleagues, but also by the acute shortage of equipment. They only have one fire engine that is over 50 years old. In addition to this lack of equipment, our firefighters were also astounded by the lack of training, prompting them to set up an association, Firefighters 4 Nepal, in order to provide sorely needed assistance. The first trip organised by F4N took place shortly after, in March 2017. Five volunteer firefighters headed off to the Himalayas with 600 kg of equipment in their luggage. The beneficial effects of this mission immediately became apparent when a plane crashed at Kathmandu Airport on 12 March 2018. Local firefighters could be seen in Belgian firefighting uniforms.
Today, a team is again flying out to Nepal. This time 16 firefighters will be on board, ready to deploy a substantial training programme and donate a container full of equipment. The team will give 3 training courses to its Nepali colleagues and will also train 8 Nepalese firefighters to become an instructor. This is a means of securing the sustainability and continuity of the project. A container filled with equipment such as personal protective clothing, small and large firefighting equipment and protective devices will be handed over on site. This container will then be reused as an exercise module where fire and smoke simulations can be reproduced. The foundation stone of Nepal’s first fire academy will also be laid.
Each member of the team contributes to the project on a wholly voluntary basis. Everyone pays for their trip and their stay out of their own pocket. The money collected goes entirely to the project.
“The strength of the project is the solidarity between the firefighters of Belgium and Nepal. This is a good illustration of how to help others to help themselves, as our assistance is based on the expertise and specific know-how we have in Belgium. This makes it a capacity-building exercise, as we share our knowledge and experience with our Nepali colleagues to make Nepalese firefighters more efficient in the long term, to allow them work in safe conditions and at the same time offer the local population a safer living environment,” explains Johan Schots, President of the association.
“The Firefighters 4 Nepal project has our wholehearted backing,” comments Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport, to whom the fire department also reports. “This is a great example of the solidarity between firefighters around the world who pursue a single goal: to better protect the population and effectively fight fires, in optimal conditions and with the appropriate equipment. Brussels Airport is supporting the association by donating equipment to the Nepalese firefighters.”