Firefighters from Shropshire have returned home after a journey across Europe to help transform the lives of people living in villages in Romania.
Fourteen volunteers took on the 10-day mission to Transylvania to donate four fire engines, set up a fire station in a medieval village and hand over cash for orphanages and care homes for the elderly.
The team spent four days travelling 1,700 miles in the fire engines before spending the best part of a week training almost 70 Romanian firefighters.
The fire engines and about 500 helmets and uniforms were handed over at a ceremony in Sighisoara on Saturday and the firefighters flew home on Sunday.
Dr Steve Worrall, assistant chief fire officer for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service who went on the trip, said it had been a ‘life changing experience’ for everyone involved.
The firefighters set out from Shrewsbury and Telford on October 12 and travelled through France, Belgium, Holland, German, Austria and Hungary before arriving in Romania four days later.
As well as training firefighters, they also visited the medieval village of Viscri where they set up a fire station and a pump which could be hauled around on a horse and cart and handed out hundreds of smoke alarms for use in people’s homes.
Colin Richards, historic building manager at Shropshire Council, also took a team of craftsmen to continue work on restoring medieval buildings in the region.
Dr Worrall said: “We took toys, clothes and presents to two orphanages in Rupea and Daci.
“We fitted smoke alarms there and at an old people’s home in Sighisoara.
“At the official handover ceremony of the fire engines in Sighisoara we also presented a cheque for £4,600 to help the orphanages and an old people’s home.
“Everyone found it a life changing experience.
“We had long days on only four or five hours sleep because our services were so much in demand – but we met so many people, made new friends and are already planning to go back next year.
“In Shropshire we have a policy of changing fire engines and equipment every 10 to 15 years. In Romania they will literally use engines until they fall apart – some of them were 50 to 60 years old.”
The four fire engines were decommissioned due to old age but fundraisers stumped up £10,000 to send them to aid the people of Romania.
The trip was undertaken in partnership with the Mihai Eminescu Trust, a charity preserving ancient villages in Romania, whose patron is Prince Charles.