Pensioner drives from Fife to Albania to pass on much-needed firefighting skills and equipment

Retired volunteer firefighter Jake Anderson drove a fire engine 1400 miles to Albania. Pic: SWNS
Retired volunteer firefighter Jake Anderson drove a fire engine 1400 miles to Albania. Pic: SWNS
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An intrepid pensioner drove a fire engine to Albania to help local rescue crews - travelling nearly 1400 miles through 10 countries.

Jake Anderson (70) volunteered with the Dumfries and Galloway Fire and Rescue Service for 33 years before retiring from the service in 2008.

Jake Anderson helps to train crews in need in Vau i Dejes. Pic: SWNS

Jake Anderson helps to train crews in need in Vau i Dejes. Pic: SWNS

The qualified mechanic has since volunteered with the International Fire and Rescue Association (IFRA), based in Thornton, which donates fire rescue equipment and refurbished fire engines to countries in need.

This summer the charity donated an old Volvo FL6 14, previously based with Diageo in Leven for 27 years, to a crew in Vau i Dejes, Albania.

Grandfather-of-three Jake took turns driving with a paramedic, another retired firefighter from Fife and a firefighter from Edinburgh Airport.

The group of four drove to Newcastle in the fire truck.

They then got a ferry to Amsterdam, before travelling through the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

After reaching Bari in Italy they took a ferry to Durres in Albania, before driving two hours north to Vau i Dejes.

The 1368 mile trip to Vayu i Dejes, near the historic city of Shkoder, took four days, but the group stayed in Albania for two weeks before flying back to Scotland via Turkey.

They helped train Albanian firefighters and showed them how to use the fire engines and equipment.

Jake said: “They had a wee bit of training before but everything we showed them was new to them.

“They were actually quite good. A lot of it is discipline.

“We did a mock demonstration of a road traffic accident. We also showed them how to run hoses, use cutting equipment, pump water and use breathing apparatus.”

The IFRA, established in 2001, has provided equipment, fire engines and vital training to Balkan countries like Bosnia and Kosovo, and as far afield as Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Panama and Paraguay.

The charity relies on donations from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and companies donating equipment and old vehicles.

Jake used his skills to help fix up the fire engine and, as well as the vehicle, full firefighting suits and equipment, including tunics, trousers, boots and gloves, were also donated.

Safety glasses, respiratory masks, ear plugs and life jackets for working close to water were also handed over to crews in Vau i Dejes.

Sixteen Albanian volunteer firefighters were put through drills, including a mock road traffic accident.

Jake said: “We donate everything for free. They write to us and say what they’re looking for and we’ll try and help them. They’re very grateful for our help.”

The dad-of-two was widowed in 2010 shortly after retiring, but found that volunteering gave him a new lease of life.

Jake told how he thought it was a joke when he first got a call from the charity inviting him to go to Paraguay.

He said: “When I was retiring, IFRA got in touch with me because down in Dumfries we had an old turntable ladder that no one knew how to operate.

“They asked me if I could help out with training in Paraguay. I put the phone down because I thought they were winding me up. But there it is, it’s now working in the capital in Paraguay.

“I’ve been across to Argentina and Paraguay 10 times. It’s better than a holiday, you’re always doing something.

“You get to see the world and help people – it certainly opens your eyes up.”