The Lacombe Fire Department, along with A Better World, has made progress in their project to donate a fire truck and equipment internationally.
The project was announced in April of this year and has undergone a few changes since the original proposal was released. The exact community location is yet to be revealed, but President of the Lacombe Firefighters’ Association Drayton Bussiere said a tentative decision has been made to send the truck to a community in Paraguay, instead of Bolivia.
The community that will likely be receiving the truck only recently opened its first operational fire department in October. The municipality serves roughly 24,000 people and they do not have a fire truck to call their own.
“Each year at the Fireman’s Ball, we fundraise for something. Generally, that money is for over and above equipment not in our budget or used for sending our members for extra training. That’s the kind of stuff we have raised money for in the past,” said Bussiere.
“This year, we’ve decided that we don’t really need to focus on ourselves. The new mandate of the Lacombe Firefighters’ Association (LFA) is that we will still help out our own members, but we’re going to also focus on something outside of Lacombe and outside of our own needs. This project in Paraguay fits into that very well.”
The newly established firefighting team in Caazapá, Paraguay built the new fire hall themselves. When the Lacombe Firefighters’ Association found out the work this community was putting forth to establish some emergency services, the LFA was eager to be able to offer some help, said Bussiere.
So far the project has included the movement to acquire and tune up a used fire truck that was donated by the Clive Fire Department. The fire truck was evaluated and is in working, drivable condition.
To supplement the donation of the fire engine, the Lacombe Fire Department is also collecting used firefighting equipment such as respirators, boots, helmets, uniforms, hoses, nozzles and more. These products will be sent via ship with the engine to Caazapá.
“Really, where we are now is we are gathering up equipment and gear – boots and regular bunker gear, helmets, gloves. Our goal is to send the truck as close to fully operational as we can. What that means to us is sending it with enough fire hose so that they don’t have to buy any, and sending it with enough nozzles so they can actually use the hoses we put on the trucks,” said Bussiere.
“Ideally, we’ll send some form of vehicle extrication equipment with the truck and as much stuff on the truck as we can get. We need to raise funds as well. Getting the truck there is going to be the most expensive part. Our plans are to send the truck and a loaded sea-can over there. It has to go on boat from Vancouver.”
Bussiere said that although the fire truck was replaced in Canada, it is still fully operational and safe. He explained due to Canada’s strict emergency service equipment regulations, items are often replaced while they are still fully useable.
He also said the fire department will be sending ‘out-of-service’ breathing apparatus’ down to Paraguay. Similar to the truck, the devices are still safe and in good condition, but were replaced with newer versions earlier this year.
“It’s not that the devices we are sending are actually unsafe. It’s just that the standards for equipment are different in Canada than in Paraguay. It’s also sort of the nature of the beast – this fire department in Paraguay has no equipment whatsoever, so they are happy to receive anything that they can.”
The Lacombe Firefighters’ Association has a history of being socially conscious and being generous to the community, said Bussiere. With each Fireman’s Ball, a small amount of money is saved for a sort of emergency fund that is used when members of the association are in distress.
The municipalities that have received assistance through this funding include Red Deer, Alix and other communities surrounding Lacombe and Lacombe County.
“If we have a member in need, we like to help them out. There was a firefighter in Alix who was in an accident, along with his wife. We were able to give them a little bit of money to help them out.”
He added the Lacombe Firefighters’ Association has been open-minded as to what they could do for communities outside of their own. The Lacombe department got the idea from Fire Chief Ed van Delden, who participated in a similar international donation through Canadian Fire Services Abroad (CAFSA), when he was with a separate department years ago.
The Lacombe Firefighters’ Association will be using a large portion of the money made at the Fireman’s Ball, which takes place on Dec. 6th, to cover much of the cost.
Tickets for the ball will be available until sold out, and those interested in purchasing can go to Sunny 94 headquarters or to City Hall. Tickets cost $70 per person or a table of eight can be purchased for $500.
Bussiere said the Lacombe Fire Department is reaching out to surrounding communities to ask local fire departments for donations of equipment or monetary contributions.
An update will follow once a permanent location for the truck has been solidified.