With the city of Leicester twinning with Krefeld in Germany, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service send over a team of firefighters each year to take part in a set of games – this year was the 43rd visit. Twenty firefighters arrived on 14 April and were greeted by Krefeld Chief Fire Officer Dietmar Meissner. He welcomed the twinning friendship and hoped the visit, which began with a games of tug of war which Krefeld won and a barbeque for everyone to feast on, would be enjoyed.

On the following day (15 April), the team were given a tour of Krefeld’s new spectacular fire station and headquarters. The Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Andreas Klos, allowed the team full access to the building which cost a staggering €35million to build. This modern emergency service building has all their key services on one site; fire appliance and paramedic ambulance bays, fire control, workshops, stores, breathing apparatus servicing, volunteer firefighter equipment, a high rise training house, gas powered fire apparatus as well as a gym and small all-weather pitch.

Krefield fire station

During the tour the Chief Fire Officer, Mr Meissner, announced that before joining the fire service he was a bricklayer and he had decided to create a wall of honour for all retiring firefighters in Krefeld. As recognition of the friendship between the two cities and to thank Watch Manager Martin Bee for his commitment to twinning since 1997, he was awarded the first brick in their wall – a very kind gesture that marked his last official visit before retiring.

At the end of the tour another announcement was made. The team were informed that the entrance of Krefeld’s new fire station was being named Bob Miller Platz (Bob Miller Place) after firefighter Bob Miller who visited Krefeld on many twinning occasions. He sadly lost his life, aged 44, in a fire in Leicester in 2002. Chief Fire Officer Dietmar Meissner, Assistant Chief Fire Officer Andreas Klos and Ulf Tabbert, a retired firefighter, were the only people that knew about this special presentation. Everyone was deeply moved by this kind, thoughtful memorable gesture to Bob and were happy it took place in Krefeld. Soon after the games continued in a nearby snow dome with Leicester winning the sledging.

bob miller 1

On Saturday (16 April) the team revisited the new fire station and were introduced to the new Mayor of Krefeld, Frank Meier, who officially welcomed them on behalf of the people of Krefeld. He then started the days challenges which began with a five a side football match for the long standing Ulf Tabbert and Jerry Askham Trophy, which Krefeld went on to win 2-1.

Football games

Finally, there was the firefighters challenge where four firefighters from Krefeld went up against four firefighters from Leicester in pulling a fire appliance, running up their training tower (7 floors) hauling aloft hose, running down the tower to the fire engine and putting a fire out. Krefeld took 6:01 mins Leicester took 5:20 mins – great result by the team!

Pulling challenge v1

The evening was spent with many presentations and commitments to the longstanding friendship between the two cities at a pub owned by Robert Obertreis, who had visited Leicester and spent time at the Old Horse on London Road. A special presentation also went to Krefeld firefighter Frank Peters for supporting firefighters in Leicester.

The team returned Sunday 17 April having once again spent an amazing time with our Krefeld firefighter friends and family.



It is with great sorrow that USAR Dog Gemma passed away today at the grand age of 18 years and 5 months.

Gemma was an extraordinary search dog and a special companion. Very rarely would we be parted, until her retirement in 2009.

She continued to come to work, still thinking that she was operational. Until she realized that she could have a lay in! She would then open up her eyes and acknowledge my presence before going back to sleep, especially if it was an early morning start, whilst Abby and Maya would be running around waiting to get out the door.

Here are just a few of her milestones in her life:

  • Picked up by me, out of a box of yellow Labradors at 9 weeks old in a North Wales dog rescue home
  • Travelled and worked on 5 continents
  • Deployed to several major earthquakes
  • Awarded a global award for her work in Washington DC USA
  • 10 year long service award from Leicestershire Fire and Recue Service
  • Attended numerous incidents in the UK, one of these being the Glasgow factory gas explosion
  • Attended many station open days and national events
  • She was instrumental in training numerous handlers, USAR technicians and firefighters from many different fire and rescue services and international teams in the use of dogs in Urban Search and Rescue work.

In simple terms, Gemma was the dog that any handler would strive to own. She was a natural search dog and a dream to work with. She was one in a million and will be sadly missed by all of our family.

Chris Pritchard

Firefighter – Technical Rescue and Urban Search and Rescue

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