2007

The first visit to Serbia by members of the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service was in March, when three members of Caerphilly Fire Station visited the Firefighters in Sremska Mitrovica and it was evident during this initial visit that we were going to be in a position to help our Serbian colleagues. We received a tremendous welcome by all concerned and the Serbian Scouts proved invaluable with their faultless translating.

August saw the Centenary of the Scouting movement and the Scouts from Sremska Mitrovica were attending an International Jamboree in Essex and were then spending a week with the Welsh Scouts at Caerphilly. To coincide with this visit, the Blazing to Serbia team brought some Serbian Firefighters to Wales for a week. A very productive, but enjoyable week was had visiting various departments of the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service, including visits to Fire Stations, the Training Centre, Control room and the Headquarters.

A second visit was then made to Sremska Mitrovica in November, when a slightly larger team donated 93 gas tight chemical suits. This donation was due in part to the generosity of British Airways, who allowed the team to transport almost 800Kg of equipment absolutely free of charge.

2008

A visit at the end on May and start of June saw the team visit lots more fire units, as well as a fire exhibition that was being held in Belgrade. At this exhibition we were introduced to Nick Groves from the British Embassy and to Mr. Maric and Chief Babic for the first time. This meeting in Belgrade was very productive and resulted in Mr. Maric agreeing that a team of Serbian Firefighters could travel to Wales to compete in the World Rescue Challenge that was being hosted by the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service in July.

World Rescue Challenge

The Blazing to Serbia team collected the Serbian delegation, which consisted of Firefighters, Officials from the Ministry of Interior and Scouts from Heathrow airport and brought them to their hotel in Cardiff. A very intense 4 days followed, where the Serbian team were welcomed to the competition as first time competitors and benefited greatly from the competition and from meeting competitors from all around the world. Productive meetings were also had with the Chief Officer of the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service and representatives of the World Rescue Organisation.

A second visit to Serbia was made at the end of November and the start of December. The team donated some hydraulic rescue equipment and breathing apparatus sets and visited lots of different Fire Units.

2009

The team made just one visit to Serbia during 2009 and this was between 13th and 16th November.

Because the team are conscious of the amount of time that the Serbian Firefighters allocate to each of their visits, on this occasion they did not tell them that they were visiting. The Scouts at Sremska Mitrovica booked transport from Belgrade Airport and ensured that the Firefighters were in work, so that the surprise would be complete. This was a more relaxing visit and ensured that quality time was spent and relationships developed.

2010

This year, the Blazing to Serbia team concentrated on acquiring a Fire Engine, getting it ready and then transporting it to Serbia. This had been the number one aim of the project, right from the start.

A Volvo truck was obtained from the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service and the team then made the necessary contacts to get minor remedial works done. Our good friends at Rhondda Valetting then made the truck look like new. Milsped from Serbia then transported the truck from Caerphilly Fire Station to Sremska Mitrovica.

The Blazing to Serbia team then flew into Serbia, in order to be at Sremska Mitrovica when the truck arrived. This was a very rewarding moment for all concerned and was the result of three years of planning and preparation.

2011

Three visits were made to Serbia in 2011 and this was because the first convoy of fire trucks was planned for the end of October.

The planning visits were productive and enjoyable, but this was not sufficient to guarantee trouble free passage. This was achieved with the co-operation of Fire Services all across Europe, who pledged to help the team if any of the trucks suffered from any mechanical defects. Assistance from Euro Tunnel, the Insurers of the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service, very generous sponsors and lots of hard work from the Blazing to Serbia team, ensured that the first drive across Europe was feasible.

ITV Wales recorded various fund raising and planning activities, before accompanying the convoy to document the journey and reception in Serbia. The programme, which was aired as part of the Wales this week series, is still available via the Home Page.

The 47 people who were part of the convoy and the 5 who flew into Serbia to meet the team were honoured that the Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Dacic was in attendance at the handing over ceremony being held at Ruma Training Centre. HM Ambassador Michael Davenport and Head of Sector for Emergency Situations from the Ministry of Interior Predrag Maric, were also at the ceremony, which was very well attended.

2012

A busy start that continued throughout the year.

In January, Milsped, from Serbia collected another fire truck and transported it to Serbia and then in February, AGS European transported an additional 4 fire engines for us. These five trucks, were the last of the 2011 trucks and with them being transported to Serbia, it meant that we would only have the 2012 trucks to drive in convoy later in the year.

In February, Blazing to Serbia was invited to the Serbian Embassy in London, to meet the Ambassador. This was a great honour and was very much appreciated.

Acquiring equipment and planning for another European drive, was the priority throughout the year and this culminated in another 6 fire trucks being driven to Serbia in October. The same support and co-operation was achieved all across Europe, with relationships made the previous year being developed. This was evident when the team met up with Markus Obel from the Koblenz Fire Service in Germany. Markus and his colleagues had really looked after the team the previous year, so it was appropriate that we met up with him again on this journey. During our meeting with Markus, he stated that every year an Officer from the Koblenz Fire Service had an opportunity to travel and carry out some International Research. He then asked if we would be able to host someone later in the year, which we were happy to do.

Assistance was received from our good friend Wolfgang and the Upper Austrian Fire Service, when one of the trucks developed a minor defect in Linz, in Austria. This problem was overcome with the minimum of delay and the team continued on their way.

For the second year running, the team met up with Patric Lausch, a Doctor from America, who was working in Budapest. Patric’s assistance and hospitality is very much appreciated by the whole team. On the final day’s driving, Patric took us to the Fire Unit at Szeged in Hungary, where the team shared pizza and exchanged T-shirts with the on duty Firefighters. The team were also allowed to wash the fire engines, before the final drive into Serbia.

It was great to meet up with our Serbian friends at the border and some of them then rode on the trucks with us, for the drive to the hotel.

The 6 fire trucks, ladders and equipment, was officially handed-over at a ceremony that was held in Belgrade and we were honoured that Ivica Dacic, who was now the Serbian Prime Minister, was again in attendance, with HM Ambassador Michael Davenport and Head of Sector for Emergency Situations from the Ministry of Interior Predrag Maric.

In December, the team hosted Oliver from the Koblenz Fire Service, and with the co-operation of Chief Officer Jakeway, he was shown lots of different aspect of the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service. It was also important that Oliver was shown some good old Welsh hospitality and some of the traditions and customs that take place in Wales at this time of year. Both Oliver and the team thoroughly enjoyed his week-long stay with us.

2013

The team only made one visit to Serbia during 2013 and this was more of a social visit, just to catch up with Serbian friends and colleagues, but also to explain the future plans for the Blazing to Serbia project.

The team continued to collect ladders, hydraulic rescue equipment, lighting bars for the tops of fire trucks and various other equipment, which was sent to Serbia on a Milsped lorry on 23rd December. Also on this lorry was over 600Kg of clothes and 268 shoe boxes filled with Christmas gifts for children, which were given to the Red Cross.

2014

The Blazing to Serbia was to make 3 visits to Serbia this year.

January

During the January visit, the team went to Red Cross Units at Novi Sad and Sremska Mitrovica, to find out more about the role of the Red Cross and to see if there was any way that Blazing to Serbia could be of assistance. This was to result in one of the biggest projects that Blazing to Serbia has been involved in.

Various meetings were held with our Fire Service colleagues, as we needed to plan for another convoy of fire trucks later in the year.

July

The third Blazing to Serbia convoy, this time consisting of 5 trucks, departed from Wales at the start of July and this made a pleasant change, as on the previous two occasions it had departed in October. On this journey the team was accompanied by Steva Pejic and the Deputy President of Sremska Mitrovica.

Two ladies from the Red Cross and a translator from the Mayor’s Office at Sremska Mitrovica were also due to travel to Wales to accompany the convoy, but their visas did not come through in time. This meant that we did not have a translator. Thanks to the power of Facebook and our friends in Serbia, we found Maria Beradovic, who we flew into Frankfurt airport. Maria proved to be a fantastic asset to our team.

Mechanical problems on one of the trucks meant that we did not arrive at Euro Tunnel until much later than planned, but they were very accommodating and nothing was too much trouble for them. However, we did not arrive at the hotel in Calais until almost midnight.

Tim Tim, which is the Fire Service version of Tom Tom, had built in a rest day in Linz, Austria, but in order to do this, the convoy had to make up the mileage on the previous two days of driving. This meant long hours on the road, but the team had the added incentive of meeting up with their good friends Markus & Oliver from the Koblenz Fire Service in Germany on one of the evenings. Our evening in Offenbach coincided with Germany playing in the quarter final of the football World Cup, so we were all honorary Germans for the evening. The team and our Serbian guests were delighted when Markus and Oliver gave us lots of equipment for the Serbian Fire Services. It is great to see that other Fire Services and Countries are now thinking about helping those less fortunate that themselves.

As we were driving through Germany, one of the trucks developed a starter motor problem. As this truck was the only truck with manual gears, it had to be driven carefully, because if it was stalled, it would not restart. It also meant that our good friend Wolfgang and the Upper Austrian Fire Service, would again be coming to our assistance.

The convoy arrived at the hotel in Linz and were met by the Green Goddess team, who had already arrived. With their help we managed to remove the offending starter motor and the following day, with the help of Wolfgang we acquired a replacement for just under 250 Euros. The Blazing to Serbia truck was then towed to the Fire Station and the replacement starter motor was fitted by the Upper Austrian Fire Service. THANK YOU

With all trucks back on the road, the team travelled to Hungary and met up with Patric Lausch in Budapest. Two additional team members flew into Budapest Airport and thanks to Patric they were collected and brought to our hotel. Patric also ensured that the trucks were again securely parked up overnight. The following day we again stopped at Szeged Fire Station for pizza with the crew, to exchange T-shirts and to take some photographs. It was then on to the border, which continues to be a mystery and a bit of an ordeal. Anyway, over 7 hours later and the team were en-route to Ruma.

We had successfully delivered 5 trucks and associated equipment, over 300 pairs of brand new shoes for the Serbia Red Cross and lots of animal beds, baths. collars, leads, food and welfare products for the Charity Serbia Forgotten Paws.

It only remained for the team to be involved with the first ever Blazing to Serbia concert, which was held on The Square in Ruma. Jules and the Ruma Rotary Club actually staged the event and sold the tickets, but Blazing to Serbia was happy to supply one of their team members, James Randell to do the singing. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, which raised a reasonable amount of money for some of the victims of the recent floods.

August

Two ladies from the Red Cross and a translator from the Mayor’s Office at Sremska Mitrovica visited Wales and had meetings with the Chair of the Fire & Rescue Authority, the Mayor of Caerphilly and the Welsh Red Cross. Naturally, they also had to be shown some good old Welsh hospitality.

November

Seventeen of the team made the third visit of 2014 and this proved to be one of the most rewarding things that Blazing to Serbia has done. An additional 13 suitcases were paid for, as the team took 400Kg of gifts for children and hygiene products for needy families. These were put into gift bags and the team, working with the Red Cross from Sremska Mitrovica, then distributed them throughout the area.

A visit was also made to a dog rescue centre in Sremska Mitrovica, which houses over 150 dogs that have been rescued off the streets. This was an emotional visit, which helped the team realise the scale of the abandoned dog problem in Serbia. This is something that Blazing to Serbia will certainly be helping with in the future.

Visits were made to Stara Pazova and Pecinci Fire Units where the team were given wonderful welcomes. Both of these Fire Units are now using fire trucks that were formerly used in the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service, now were donated by Blazing to Serbia. It was really pleasing to see these donated trucks and equipment being put to good use and being given a second working life. The Serbian Firefighters present could not express their gratitude enough and were really impressed with the trucks and equipment.

James Randell then performed a concert in Sremska Mitrovica, which was staged by the Sremska Mitrovica Cultural Department, with the help of our good friend Danijela. This was really well received by the locals, our Serbian friends and the Blazing to Serbia team. The following evening, there was a second concert and Charity dinner at Ruma, to raise money for the Ruma Rotary Club and for Bowel Cancer research. Kevin R, the Canadian Ambassador, auctioned off a number of paintings produced by a Serbian artist and the Blazing to Serbia team bought two of these. Phil donated one to Vlada, who is one of our Serbian Firefighter friends and the team donated the second to Jelena at the Vila Hit Hotel in Ruma.

Later in November, Dragan and his son, who are now living in the Czec Republic, but who are originally from Serbia visited Wales to watch the Wales versus New Zealand rugby match. Blazing to Serbia team members sorted him out with tickets, collected them from the airport and took them to their accommodation in Cardiff. On match day they were collected and taken for breakfast with some of the team. There was a short visit to Caerphilly Castle and a quick tour, before some photographs and the rugby. There was post match food and drinks and other than the result, a good day was had by one and all. Our new friends were then taken to the airport the following day for their return flight to the Czec Republic.

2015

The team has some big ideas and some new challenges and it is sure to be an exciting year.

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