By Zachary Cormier
A year ago, the Lacombe Fire Department (LFD) teamed up with the Lacombe Firefighters Association (LFA), A Better World Canada (ABW) and a number of other communities and organizations around Central Alberta to donate a fully-equipped, decommissioned fire truck to a community in Paraguay.
The project, which they called Project Paraguay, was a huge success that evolved from a small, grassroots movement into a province-wide effort to supply the town with equipment for their emergency services.
It took a little over a year to gather all the equipment that they would need, but eventually, in July of last year, the truck and equipment arrived safely in Caazapá.
Now, a year after they sent their first truck to the small South American country, the LFA is ready to do it again.
“This project came to fruition pretty quickly,” said Drayton Bussiere, LFD Deputy Fire Chief and Project Paraguay committee member.
According to Bussiere, most of the equipment that they needed the Association already had as surplus from the first project, so the only thing missing was the truck.
“Really the truck became available, and that’s obviously the biggest part is having a truck become available, so this engine that we’re donating this year came from the Mirror Fire Department and we had lots of equipment that we had gathered up that was surplus from the first one, so we supplemented that a little bit,” he said, adding that the LFA now has pretty much everything they need to send the truck on its way.
The destination this time is General Artigas, a small community in Southern Paraguay.
“The truck that we donated last year went to a community of about 20,000 people and it was the very first fire truck they’ve ever had. This time we’re sending it to a community of about 13,000, very similar to Lacombe. They have a fire truck right now but it’s non-operational so this truck that we’re sending them will be a huge upgrade,” said Bussiere.
“There’s a couple of reasons,” Bussiere said when asked why the department had chosen to support communities in Paraguay specifically.
“One of them is there’s lots of need in Paraguay, so they have big communities with very little fire protection. And one of the other reasons is that we actually have a member on our department that grew up in Paraguay, and so we have that natural connection to the community.”
That member’s name is Uwe Kurth and he has been instrumental in making the project a success.
“It’s a big thing because you know when you are there, not only if you are from a country, but even if you’ve been to a place and you know the needs and you can actually feel it. It’s pretty much straightforward. You compare with how easy we get stuff here. We have all the tools we need to do our job. It’s not the same thing there,” said Kurth, who is now the Chair of the Donations Committee for Project Paraguay.
“It’s very clear to realize that when you’re basically on both sides of the fence.”
Kurth’s connection and knowledge of the country has helped the committee identify areas where support is needed most. He was also one of the two firefighters that travelled to Caazapá in August last year to help train the local fire department in the use of their new equipment.
“It’s an awesome thing. It’s really rewarding, I would say. And it’s good because it’s easy to communicate and, you know, understand their needs and what people are going through. So it’s very rewarding,” Kurth said of his trip back to Paraguay.
After the success of the first project, the committee received a number of applications from other communities in Paraguay looking for the same kind of support.
So the committee created a selection process that would help them identify the community that can benefit the most from the donation.
“Their criteria is a few different things but we sit down and select the one we believe that is more in need and is more feasible and where the fire truck and the equipment will make the best for the most,” Kurth said.
“This department that we selected this time met all of our conditions pretty quickly and so there’s no point in letting it all sit here for too long so we’re just getting it ready and sending it off,” Bussiere added.
In addition to the donation of the fire truck, the Association will also be sending a crate of equipment to two more fire departments in Capitán Miranda and Tomás Romero Pereira, who applied for aid but weren’t selected as the main beneficiaries.
The fire truck and equipment are scheduled to be shipped later this week.