BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Members of our local fire department and association are thrilled to have sent their third donation to Paraguay, this time with a truck from right here in Lacombe.
This is the third mission that the Lacombe Firefighter’s Association (LFA) and Lacombe Fire Department (LFD) have teamed up with the City of Lacombe for, and all groups are looking forward to making a difference in communities beyond our borders.
A decommissioned fire truck, along with donated fire-fighting equipment and tools is currently on the way to Natalio, Paraguay, and is expected to arrive within two to three months.
“Every time another donation is ready, it’s a really special excitement that we feel,” said Uwe Kurth, chairman of the LFA’s Paraguay Project Committee. “Channelling our equipment and tools in this way is really beneficial, because we know that it will be used in helping communities that don’t have access to this kind of equipment. It’s very rewarding.”
This project began with the intention of making use of decommissioned Canadian equipment in the area. Although a truck or piece of equipment may be unable to be used by our standards, the items are still safe and functional and can be used in other communities.
This donation involves sending the City of Lacombe’s retired Fire Engine One, as well as two large crates of assorted equipment to Natalio.
A third crate of tools and equipment is also heading to Paraguay, to be distributed to three other fire departments in the same region.
Kurth said that although it is exciting to send the equipment south of the border, it’s equally important to be able to provide quality training and knowledge to the firefighting departments who receive the donations.
“We know in other places, safety of the workers isn’t always taken into account. We make sure to send protective equipment and we ensure the firefighters are protected and that they know the importance of that,” he explained.
“The other side of this program is the training. When we provide training, we make them aware and share our experiences of safety and what can happen when we’re doing our work. That makes a big difference.”
Kurth said this program is a great source of pride for the LFD and LFA, because they know they are able to make a difference in communities both directly through the donations and training but indirectly as these recipient communities share their knowledge with others.
Each time a donation is sent to Paraguay, members of LFA travel down in the following months to teach the recipient communities how to utilize the equipment. So far, all of the donations have been made to the same province of Itapúa.
Kurth said this has been intentional, because it will help to set a standard of practice within the province and surrounding communities. As the firefighters develop their skills and standards, they will be able to network into other provinces and communities to share their knowledge. “It’s a really good thing and a value added to our donations,” Kurth said.
“We’re teaching the highest level of training, highest level of safety measures. Everything is up to date and modern and according to code. When they receive that training, they are able to replicate that to smaller communities which is awesome.”
Natalio, a city of 21,237, has a new volunteer fire department with 11 members.
The fire department was formed in 2004 and started operations the following year. The community built a fire hall in 2010 which houses an ambulance, a 1952 Bedford fire truck and a limited supply of firefighting gear and tools.
“This donation is an enormous benefit for our fire department and the residents of Natalio, and we thank everyone involved in this project for helping to make our community more resilient,” said Ramon Prieto, president of the board of the Cuerpo de Bomberos Voluntarios de Natalio.
“The new fire engine will improve our capacity to respond to larger fires in the community and the equipment will allow us to perform our jobs more safely and efficiently.”
This mission has been made possible by donations by the City of Lacombe, Lacombe County, the Sylvan Lake Fire Department, A Better World Canada, Lacombe Signmasters, Nova Chemicals, Fire Master and through the support of local businesses and residents. The citizens of Natalio also contributed to the shipping costs.
The donation was shipped from Vancouver on May 8th and is expected to arrive in Paraguay roughly 60-90 days from departure. After the truck and equipment is delivered to the recipient communities, the LFA will send members to train local fire departments on the equipment and help further their emergency response abilities.
“I am proud of the Lacombe firefighter’s involvement and leadership in this mission,” said LFD Fire Chief Ed van Delden.
“This is a great example of social responsibility and community engagement, something every community is striving for today. Our volunteers have had a long-standing tradition of helping the community and the region, and now they are extending it overseas.”
Drayton Bussiere of the LFD said he’s very excited to see another donation come to fruition.
“I think this donation is even a bit more exciting for us, because it’s actually a Lacombe engine – it’s like saying goodbye to an old friend. We’re excited for its new life to start down there.”
He said it’s been exciting to see the project gain so much momentum.
“It’s been a large group effort through the department and association, but also in all of the support from the community and in the surrounding fire departments. Without that, none of this would have been possible.”
Kurth said all involved parties are excited for the possibility for the Paraguay Project to grow, and for communities in Paraguay to be able to provide safe and up-to-date equipment to their firefighters.
Members from LFA are looking forward to heading down to Paraguay sometime late this summer to train the recipient firefighting team.