April 20, 2023 4.00 pm This story is over 14 months old

Firefighter heroes win Lincoln Civic Award for Turkey earthquake rescue mission

Local charity also highly commended

Four Lincolnshire firefighters who used their expertise to pull survivors from buildings shattered by the devastating earthquakes in Turkey are the winners of the 2023 Lincoln Civic Award.

As part of an international search and rescue mission to help survivors in the Turkish provinence of Kahramanmaras, four Lincolnshire firefighters were deployed with a 77-strong team from the UK.

A 7.8 magnitude quake battered southern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6, followed by a 7.5 magnitude tremor.

The four Lincolnshire firefighters were Group Manager Ashley Hildred, usually based at Nettleham, Sleaford Crew Manager Colin Calam, Training Watch Manager Mark Dungworth and experienced dog handler Neil Woodmansey, with his search dog Colin.

They were sent out to Turkey on February 7, 2023 and returned to the UK on February 15.

Search dog Colin also made a huge difference to their success and, despite having to have a cut paw treated by a vet, he soon had his nose back to the ground. Group Manager Ashley said Colin was “able to access small spaces, which were potentially unsafe for humans”.

The firefighters previously spoke to The Lincolnite to share their experiences of the harrowing scenes in Turkey, collectively agreeing that it is unlike anything they have seen before.

The four firefighters will receive the prestigious award from the city’s Mayor, Councillor Rosanne Kirk, at a ceremony in the Lincoln Guildhall at 6.30pm on Friday, April 21.

Ashley Hildred, Group Manager at Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue. | Photo: The Lincolnite

Group Manager Ashley Hildred said: “On arrival, the scale of the disaster was unimaginable. It was utter devastation. We worked with the host country’s co-ordinators, who were also overwhelmed, and we were sent to Antakya City.

“Once in the area, our team worked out which buildings to tackle.

“We are delighted to say that our team rescued eight survivors, including children. That sounds like a mere drop in the ocean in relationship to the thousands of deaths, but we are proud of what we achieved.”

Colin Calam of Sleaford Fire Station. | Photo: The Lincolnite

Training Watch Manager Mark Dungworth. | Photo: The Lincolnite

He added: “We are really proud to receive this award on behalf of the UKISAR team.

“It was a privilege to be a part of this team which deployed to Turkey in response to the earthquake and to have the opportunity to put our skills to good use and affect rescues and relieve suffering in any way that we could.

“While we receive the award, the recognition should be aimed at our partners that supported us to respond at the drop of a hat, and the wider team that coordinated the response from the UK and all of the support we received to allow us to do what we did.

“The emotional impact of this disaster will stay with the team for a long time so we really appreciate the recognition of the Lincoln Civic Award.”

Neil Woodmansey and Colin the search dog are back on British soil. | Photo: The Lincolnite

The celebration will also see Lincoln-based charity Developmentplus has been “highly commended” by the Civic Award Trustees.

It has 25 years experience of working alongside disadvantaged and vulnerable people to help improve their lives. In 2022, Developmentplus suppored 511 beneficiaries through four one-to-one projects.

Lynsey Collinson, Developmentplus Chief Executive, said she was “beyond proud” that the organisation had been highly commended.

“We work alongside people in their community, facilitating their involvement in decisions that affect their lives, supporting them to identify and develop initiatives that they feel will improve their quality of life,” she said.

Henry Ruddock, Lincoln Civic Award Trustees Chairman, said: “We had several strong nominations for this year’s Award and they were quite diverse, which led to in-depth discussions.

“All the Trustees were unanimous in deciding that the Lincolnshire firefighters should receive the Civic Award in recognition of their work in the wake of the Turkish Earthquake disaster.

“However, we were also impressed by the work being done by Developmentplus in changing and saving lives much nearer to home, which is why we decided to “highly commend” that organisation.”

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