Lacombe fire truck heading to Paraguay

Lacombe Firefighters Association has donated three fire engines to Paraguay

A donated fire truck will be a “life changer” for a Paraguayan community, said Lacombe Fire Department Deputy Chief Drayton Bussiere.

For local volunteer firefighters, involvement in the charitable effort to help counterparts a continent away also has left a big impression, he said. It’s the third fire engine donation they’ve made for communities in Paraguay in the last three years.

Lacombe’s Volunteer Firefighter’s Association gathered at the fire hall on Friday to officially send off decomissioned Engine 1 to Natalio, a community of 21,000 in southeast Paraguay.

Its 11-member fire department has been making do with a 1952 Bedford fire truck, an ambulance and a small collection of tools and equipment.

Besides the truck, Lacombe’s firefighters have collected two crates of equipment for Natalio, and a third crate will be shared among nearby communities.

A training team of firefighters is heading to Natalio in August, led by firefighter Uwe Kurth, who was born and raised in Paraguay and is chairman of the Paraguay Project Committee.

The project’s first donated fire engine was retired from Clive Fire Department and went to Caazapá in 2015. The following year, a decommissioned engine from Mirror went to Artigas, which is about 100 km from Caazapá.

The latest donation will shipped from Vancouver on May 8 and is expected to arrive in Paraguay two to three months later. Natalio residents raised the $10,000 shipping cost.

Kurth said the importance of the donation can’t be underestimated. Natalio was relying on a fire department 40 km away — the equivalent of Lacombe waiting for fire trucks to arrive from Bowden in an emergency.

One of the important roles firefighters play in rural Paraguay is to prevent wildfires from spreading. In a country with no crop insurance, losing fields to fire is especially devastating for communities.

Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie is a former volunteer firefighter and used the donated truck for 12 years.

“It’s great to see it be re-purposed and the life extended on it in another community that can use it,” he said.

Lacombe’s firefighters are not finished. A Bentley fire truck has already been lined up for the next donation.

The City and County of Lacombe, Nova Chemicals, Sylvan Lake Fire Department and local residents and businesses all made donations for the latest project, which has also been supported by Lacombe-based A Better World Canada.

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