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Pembrokeshire firefighter returns home a hero after saving lives in Turkey earthquake catastrophe

A Pembrokeshire firefighter, Phil Irving, returned home from his heroic efforts in Turkey yesterday, where he was deployed as part of the UK Government’s response to the earthquake catastrophe. Phil, a Watch Manager at Haverfordwest Station, was one of 77 search and rescue specialists from 14 fire and rescue services across the UK, who spent the past week saving people entombed in the rubble of wrecked buildings.

After a week of intense work, Phil had an emotional reunion with his family, joined by his wife Lianne. There were tearful scenes as dad-of-two Phil surprised his eight-year-old son Evan and daughter Esmei, 14, by arranging to have them pulled out of class to let them know he was back home. Phil had cause to hug his children a little tighter when he picked them up at Ysgol Caer Elen school in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire on February 16.

“I’ve witnessed the pain and anguish of so many people in Turkey who will never get to see their loved ones again. My biggest takeaway when you consider what the people of Turkey are going through is that it emphasizes the importance of family. It’s so easy to take our lives and loved ones for granted,” said Phil.

Remarkable footage from Saturday showed Phil and his UK-ISAR colleagues saving the lives of a man and woman who had both been trapped in a collapsed multi-storey building for 120 hours. Phil, who has been a firefighter for almost 24 years and has been volunteering with UK-ISAR for 17 years, has played a part in the Indonesia (2009) and Haiti (2010) earthquake responses.

Phil expressed his pride in the UK government’s resources, such as UK-ISAR and the UK-Emergency Medical Team, which stand ready to step up and save lives when there is a humanitarian disaster, such as what we are seeing in Turkey and Syria right now. As the situation on the ground moves into a new phase, from rescue to recovery, the UK is committing a further package of support to address urgent humanitarian needs in Turkey and Syria.

UK Minister for Development, Andrew Mitchell, expressed his pride in the brave Welsh firefighters and medics who have been at the very heart of their efforts to help the Turkish people in their hour of need. “Both the UK-ISAR and UK-EMT pool world-leading expertise from across Britain to make a real difference in reacting to humanitarian disasters around the globe,” said Mitchell.

Phil’s incredible efforts in Turkey have not gone unnoticed, and he and his colleagues are a source of pride for their country. We thank Phil and all the other brave individuals who have risked their lives to save others during this tragedy.