Up Ben Nevis carrying a fire engine – to raise funds!

05 June 2013
Firefighters carried a fire engine up Ben Nevis for Children with Cancer UK
In July 2013, Norm Keighron and eight colleagues from the Kent Fire and Rescue Services’ USAR team carried a fire engine - one third of the size of a normal engine - up Ben Nevis to raise funds for Children with Cancer UK.

Norm tells us their story:
“The idea of ascending Ben Nevis was suggested by team member Jim. Most of us realised that we knew someone affected by cancer and that we’d like to do something to help. What better cause than Children with Cancer UK?

The screen-printed “Fire Engine” is a lightweight and one third of the size of a normal engine. It is mounted onto a lightweight frame. We don’t think this has been attempted before..!?

Fort William - the ascent begins
Norm KeighronWe gathered at Fort William Fire Station in the Western Highlands of Scotland. Six of us had made our way by car from Maidstone. Jim and Alan were flying from Glasgow and were delayed and so had very little sleep prior to the climb.

Awake at 6.15am, we aimed to be at the foot of Ben Nevis by 8am. The weather was clear in Fort William but cloud covered the top of Ben Nevis with a forecast for it to clear later.

The lightweight fire engine was assembled in the car park at the foot of the hill with a few comments from other people as they passed, and then we set off up the pony track.  With two members of the team inside the fire engine at a time, the task of carrying it was rotated every half an hour.  The pony track is a mixture of different sized rocks - good walking boots were essential.

We’d anticipated the wind loading on the fire engine being quite severe and we’d approached Blue Ant in Faversham to design the perforated screens. They kindly did this free of charge. They were excellent and stood up to the very severe gusts of wind which managed to strip a few of the cable ties from the frame. At one point we put an additional person on each corner to prevent it being carried off in the wind.

There were plenty of words of encouragement from other groups of climbers coming down from the summit and from groups that we managed to overtake on the pony track. We even had a few rounds of applause.

Reaching the snow line and summitNorm Keighron
Around 1pm we passed through the snow line – it’s there all year round - and reached the summit at around 1.20pm.

We had lunch in the dilapidated weather observatory, out of the biting wind, then started the descent over very rough terrain and down the section known as “Coire Leis”.

The descent via Coire Leis
Descending Coire Leis proved to be more difficult than any of us expected. It is hard enough without carrying a lightweight fire engine...

Every step felt like you were about to lose your footing and take a tumble which most of us did at least once.

We eventually reached more level ground and some semblance of a path which led round to the climbing hut and eventually “Lochan Meall an t-suidhe”, the small Lochan located next to the split in the pony track.

From the pony track we made our way down passing many climbers on their way up.

9.5 hours on the mountain!
Norm KeighronAfter 9.5 hours on the mountain we got back to the car park, dismantled the fire engine and made our way back to the Fire Station for a shower, change of clothing and out for something to eat and a well earned drink.

By about 11.30 we were all back at the Fire Station and fast asleep. Everyone was worn out.

The following day was another early start. Unfortunately we got stuck in a 3 hour traffic jam in sweltering heat. On our arrival at Maidstone around 9pm we were weary, aching and hungry!

The lightweight “fire engine” has been rolled up and put under the stairs at the USAR centre…until next year..!

We’d like to thank Blue Ant in Faversham for their kind assistance in producing the prints; our colleagues in The Scottish Fire Service for the accommodation; and all the friends and families who offered their support for the trip.

Finally we’d also like to thank everyone who donated.

There is still time to donate for those that would like to...

Sponsor the USAR team that climbed Ben Nevis carrying a fire engine

We are splitting the proceeds with the Fire Fighters charity on a 50:50 basis since it’s a tradition to raise money for our own charity.

Team members: Jim Chaston, Alan Downes, Carl Eastwell, Charlie (Mark) Fox, Jimmy (Tony) Hendricks, Duncan Horlock, Norm Keighron,  John Mazzey (our boss)"

What the USAR does
Within the UK there are currently 19 Fire and Rescue authorities with Urban Search and Rescue teams (USAR).

Urban Search and Rescue involves the location and rescue/recovery of casualties trapped in collapsed buildings and heavy road or rail accidents. It is the USAR that are sent as specialist firefighter volunteers to help in overseas disasters.

Our own Jim, Alan and John have been involved with the disasters in Indonesia, Haiti and the Japanese Tsunami. Channel 5 produced a programme which followed their progress whilst in Japan.

Norm Keighron, July 2013

Thank you to the Kent Fire and Rescue Service  - for all your efforts and a great story!

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