The Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Cadets European Exchange 2016

An account of the Bremerhaven – Germany 2016 Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Cadet European Exchange by Rosemary Locock - Education Officer 

Very early on the morning of 27th July 2016, four Weymouth Fire Cadets, Marshall Miller. Beth Fry, Emma Bishop, Bonnie Carroll, Phil Villain, and myself set off for Stanstead airport for our flight to Bremen in Northern Germany for the annual European Fire Cadets Exchange.  

These four cadets were specifically chosen to attend the exchange after demonstrating commitment, a positive attitude and willingness to work hard during this year‘s Weymouth Cadet programme.

On our arrival at Bremen International Airport we were met by our hosts Dennis and Marc who then drove us to Bremerhaven for a tour of the area before booking into our accommodation. The French Cadet group from La Manche Fire & Rescue Service in Cherbourg, consisting of two instructors and four cadets, arrived early that evening after a tiring 15hr journey from France by minibus.

After settling in to the Bremerhaven Youth Hostel and an evening meal at the Bremerhaven main Station, we were given a guided tour around the 38-bay fire station, which contained an array of firefighting vehicles and ambulances. There are 37 firefighters on duty at any one time, most of whom are trained paramedics, so they spend their time swapping between the role of a firefighter and a paramedic. The site is made up of headquarters, vehicle workshops, has a state of the art Control room, underground swimming pool, volleyball courts, a football pitch and a training tower where the top is only accessible after climbing 135 steps.

The exchange officially started on the morning of Thursday 28th July with a warm welcome from Bremerhaven Fire & Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer Jens Cordes and the Chair of the Fire Authority.  Later that day the cadets took part in team activities, such as fire hose bowling (where the aim was to knock down bottles of water with dutch-rolled hose), a music quiz and building a tower of plastic cups on a piece of tin foil held by two team members. This was followed by an RTC demonstration by the professional fire fighters. Using a crane, they hoisted a car to a certain height and dropped it onto a large boulder to demonstrate the destruction caused in an RTC at 55km per hour.  The students were then given the opportunity to work with the firefighters to release the casualty trapped inside.

During our five day stay the Fire Cadets were given the opportunity to take part in sightseeing days such as the interactive Klimahaus Scientific Centre in Bremerhaven. The centre, resembling the shape of a boat, offers visitors the possibility of a virtual trip around the world stopping of at many different countries and looking at how climate change affects our planet. At At Heide Park, one of the biggest theme parks in Northern Germany, most of us  experienced the adrenalin rush of some of the biggest and fastest roller coasters, including the inverted twisting, twirling Limit roller coaster. Later that evening a visit to the local ice skating rink had been arranged.

A visit to the Sail City view platform gave us some fabulous sights across the city of Bremerhaven and beyond. Next was the City & Harbour bus tour and free time for the cadets to do some shopping in Bremerhaven. On our final evening we were treated to a fabulous meal at a local fish restaurant. This concluded with the exchanging of gifts by each of the Cadet groups.

There was a great emphasis on team-building activities during the week and it was reassuring to see how well our young people got on with the different tasks and also to see how much they achieved by using just a few words in English, German or French.

The language barrier was perhaps more of an issue for our French colleagues, due to their limited command of English and German languages. However, Phil was able to assist them with this, so no questions were left unanswered and everyone got on really well.  

Our young people were great ambassadors for Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service. They fully engaged with the other cadets and took every available opportunity to practise their French and German language skills.

The facilities were more than adequate and our German colleagues did everything they could to make us feel welcome. Even though the weather let us down on occasions everyone had an amazing time.

Overall this has been a remarkable experience and Bremerhaven Fire & Rescue Service cannot be praised enough for their hard work and commitment to the exchange.

Recently, a Cadet Exchange page has been set up on Facebook so that the cadets can keep in touch and hopefully make some long-lasting links.

Rosemary Locock - Education Officer