On the way to Paraguay
Deputy Fire Chief Drayton Bussiere, members of the Lacombe Fire Dept. and City of Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie (third from right) stand beside Engine One, which will be sent to Paraguay, Friday morning at the Lacombe Fire Hall. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
One year after the Lacombe Fire Department (LFD) pushed Engine Three into the fire hall, its Engine One predecessor is being sent overseas to help a community in Paraguay.
The donation is the fourth of its kind made by the LFD, in conjunction with the Lacombe Firefighter’s Association and the City of Lacombe, but this time it will go to the city of Natalio, which has a population of 21,237 and is served by just one 1952 Bedford fire truck and limited firefighting gear and tools.
Uwe Kurth, Chairman of the Lacombe Firefighters Association Paraguay Project Committee who happens to hail from Paraguay himself, said it’s important to be able to repurpose the engine.
“When you drive by and see an old truck either sitting on a farm, you feel it in the heart,” he said.
“When you see it doing the work it was made for and it’s being used where it will make a difference it’s a good feeling.”
In addition to the truck, three crates of firefighting gear and supplies will be donated.
The truck, along with three crates of gear are expected to be shipped this month, and arrive at its destination two-three months after that.
Once it gets there, a group of firefighters will head down to provide training.
“We try to identify what their priorities are,” Kurth said. “We give them training on the fire truck to make sure they’re using it properly, as well as basic tactics and firefighting techniques.”
Simple procedures, like putting on the gear itself, will also be taught.
Kurth said the first time firefighters travelled to Paraguay, they didn’t know how to gear up.
“It’s the things we do automatically here that you don’t think about. It’s just because they’ve never had this equipment,” he said.
“We always though the fire truck and the equipment would be the biggest benefit but after giving the training, I would say 60 per cent of the impact comes from the training.”
Other countries have made donations to Paraguay in the past for firefighting, however, according to Deputy Fire Chief Drayton Bussiere, Lacombe is unique in that they do travel and provide training.
“For us to be able to travel there and bring the knowledge we have over there and give it to them, is huge,” Bussiere said.
“It really is just giving them access to stuff they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
In a release, Ramon Prieto, President of the Board of the Cuerpo de Bomberos Voluntarios de Natalio, said the donation is huge for the city.
“The donation is an enormous benefit for our fire department and the residents of Natalio and we thank everyone involved in the project for helping to make our community more reslient,” he said. “The new fire engine will improve our capacity to respond to larger fires in the community nad the equipment will allow us to perform our jobs more safely and efficiently.”
The mission also includes donations by Lacombe County, Sylvan Lake Fire Dept., A Better World Canada, Lacombe Signmasters, Nova Chemicals, Fire Master and local businesses and residents.
The citizens of Natalio contributed to shipping costs.