Firefighters are used to answering the bell when people are in need.
That kind of spirit inspired Lacombe’s volunteer firefighters to help out comrades a continent away.
In a special ceremony at the Lacombe fire station on Monday, a pumper truck and three huge crates of gear and equipment were presented that will soon be heading to Paraguay in South America.
“It’s a natural for us to take this project on,” said Lacombe volunteer firefighter Drayton Bussiere, the past-president of the firefighters association.
“We’re all very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
A decommissioned pumper from Clive is destined to become the first fire engine owned by the 24,000-strong community of Caazapá, which has a new fire station and 18-member fire department.
The fire truck will be transported on a flatbed to Vancouver and loaded on a ship that will leave port on Thursday for the 68-day journey to South America.
The trip is happening months ahead of schedule thanks to fundraising efforts in Paraguay, where grateful citizens raised the bulk of the more than $20,000 shipping cost.
On the Alberta end, the project has been a joint effort of the Lacombe Firefighters Association, the department, Lacombe County and local charitable group A Better World.
It came about when Clive’s pumper, which had served the area for 22 years, came up for retirement. Lacombe’s firefighters got wind of the opportunity and the county gladly donated the truck.
Other fire departments, the province, area ambulance services and petrochemical industry fire services donated old gear to outfit their Paraguayan counterparts, who have little in the way of modern equipment.
“It’s going to make a difference to them,” Bussiere said.
Lacombe firefighter Uwe Kurth was raised in Paraguay and is familiar with the challenges facing firefighters in Caazapá. A burgeoning motorcycle industry has seen serious accidents skyrocket. The rural area around the community is surrounded by sugar cane fields and grasslands for cattle, both of which are vulnerable to wild fires.
Caazapá Fire Department Capt. Alcides Aguilera Orrego sent his thanks in a letter.
“This is an important donation to our community, and we send our heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in getting the truck and equipment to our city. The fire engine, as well as the tools and equipment, will significantly change for the better how we respond to emergencies.”
A team of Lacombe firefighters will soon start planning a trip this summer to train their Caazapá comrades on the new equipment.
The success of the fire truck initiative has Lacombe’s firefighters already thinking about their next project.
A pumper that has served the City of Lacombe since 1986 is due to be retired and firefighters want to find another community in need, probably in Paraguay, where they hope to use the contacts they have made.
“We’ve already got a bunch of equipment collected for the next one,” said deputy chief Heith Johannson.