ASFA sends another fire truck on its way to Paraguay

Lacombe County Fire Chief Drayton Bussiere talks about the Alberta Society for Firefighters Abroad and their donation of an aerial apparatus and truck from DOW Chemical Canada to Encarnacion, Paraguay on Monday June 24 2019 outside of D & M Plastics in Lacombe, Alta. Ashli Barrett / jpg, LG

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Another fire truck is headed to Paraguay to help one of their fire departments take their services to new heights.

On Monday morning, members of the recently founded Alberta Society for Firefighters Abroad (ASFA), which includes Lacombe and Lacombe County firefighters, announced the donation of an aerial apparatus, in partnership with DOW Chemical Canada, which will soon be deployed with Cuerpo de Bomberos Voluntarios de la Ciudad in Encarnacion later this year.

The donation is the seventh that has been made as part of the ongoing “Project Paraguay,” where needed equipment is sent to aid departments there.

Lacombe County Fire Chief Drayton Bussiere, who has been involved since the onset and personally trained firefighters in Paraguay on new equipment in the past, said such donations make a significant impact.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “The  fire department that I travelled down there to train had no fire engine at all before we donated one. They were going to calls without proper equipment. It’s not readily available.

“They’re 100 per cent volunteer organizations and so they’re making due with what they can prior to donations. It’s a step increase to them when the trucks get there and they receive training.”

Lacombe County Fire Chief Drayton Bussiere signs the fire truck being donated by the Alberta Society for Firefighters Abroad to a fire dept. in Encarnacion, Paraguay on Monday, June 24, 2019. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Project Paraguay began as a way to make use of fully functional fire equipment no longer meeting the needs or high regulatory standards in Canada. Originally, donations were made under the umbrella of the Lacombe Firefighters Association, however, this year they founded ASFA to expand their reach throughout the province, and in turn, to more communities in need.

“One of the (reasons) we started this whole thing was we wanted to create something that was sustainable and so we needed a solid, natural connection with the receiving country. We actually had a member of the Lacombe Fire Dept. (Uwe Kurth) from Paraguay. He was well aware of the need there,” said Bussiere.

“The other intent of becoming ASFA is we might not stay in Paraguay all the time – we might stay there for a long time and start operating somewhere else as well. There’s a lot of need out there in different countries, but the need is great in Paraguay and well continue to work there for a long time.”

Encarnacion, a city of over 127,000 people, was chosen to receive the apparatus, given the amount of infrastructure from commercial development and industrial sectors to high rise buildings. It’s the largest apparatus they’ve donated to date.

A shipping container of firefighting equipment, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), stretchers and a cargo van for carrying manpower to and from scenes has also been sent to Encarnacion. The donations won’t be all material, either – a training trip is scheduled for mid to late October, and will see several local area firefighters show their Encarnacion counterparts how to use the equipment.

“The Encarnacion fire dept. is a well developed and well structured fire department. When I was down there, they were celebrating 35 years. In comparison, Lacombe has a volunteer fire department that celebrated 110 years,” said ASFA board member and Treasurer Eric Nicholas.

“When we go down, we’re lending experience through our many, many years of development and progression. We’re able to go down and show a lot of history we have learned on and now we can impress onto them benefits and drawbacks.”

Trevor Griffiths of DOW Chemical signs a message of “safety first” on the fire truck apparatus being donated by them and the Alberta Society for Firefighters Abroad to a fire department in Encarnacion, Paraguay on Monday, June 24, 2019. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

As for the apparatus itself, the truck had originally been used at a DOW plant in Sarnia, Ont., but eventually ended up at their operations in Fort Saskatchewan. Having donated two trucks previously, and with Lacombe Fire Chief Ed van Delden being a DOW retiree, it just made sense for ASFA and DOW to coordinate and make the truck the next donation.

Jess MacDonald, site public affairs manager for DOW Canada said its part of their commitment to not only engaging in the communities they live in, but discovering sustainable solutions.

“One of our major pillars for global citizenship is sustainable solutions, so if you think about a big donation like this to a local society, it’s a great example of increasing the life span of something and enabling those sustainable solutions,” she said.

“We’re really looking forward to engaging with the community where the fire truck is going and seeing our truck in action.”

The truck was set to be loaded on Tuesday and sent to Vancouver. Next week, it’s expected to be loaded into a shipping container and sent on a three-month journey down the west coast, across the Panama Canal and around Brazil, before reaching a river opening in the Uruguay area and then up to Paraguay.