The Alberta Society for Firefighters Abroad, which is comprised of many members from the Lacombe County Fire Service and the City of Lacombe Fire Department, recently donated a fire engine to the Encarnacion Fire Department in Paraguay.
The donation, which was made possible through the support of Dow Chemical, is part of the newly formed ASFA’s mission to support firefighting departments throughout the world.
County Fire Chief Drayton Bussiere has been involved with these donations for many years and said the intent of these projects is to create sustainable firefighting departments in places that need them.
“We needed a solid connection with a country and we had a member of the Lacombe Fire Department who was from Paraguay,” Bussiere said. “He is well aware of the need there and helped facilitate the connections. We have built a base there.”
Bussiere said that Paraguay has been their main focus on several projects — but the official formation of the ASFA allows them to expand their scope.
“We may stay there and start operating somewhere else eventually,” he said.
“I think we will because there is a lot of need out there in different countries. The need is great in Paraguay and we will continue to work there for a long time.”
Bussiere said the arrival of these donations is a big deal for these fire departments in Paraguay.
“The fire department that I travelled down to train had no fire engine at all before we donated one, so there were going to calls without proper equipment,” he said.
“They had an ambulance, but really it was a van they modified into an ambulance.
“It is really impressive the amount of work the fire departments are doing without the proper equipment.”
Bussiere said that most fire departments in the region are 100 per cent volunteer and community run, with little guidance from their federal governments.
“There is some fire apparatus, but the road system from community to community really delays response. The more we can help expedite that is significant for them,” he said.
Eric Nicholas, board member of the Alberta Society for Firefighters Abroad, said this particular engine is perfect for the community of Encarnacion.
“With the amount of infrastructure they have, including high-rise buildings and large commercial development, we found that this truck with it capabilities and ladder capabilities would be best suited for that location,” he said.
“This is the first time we have dealt with an apparatus this large. This is our seventh donation truck and we have previously done a few other mid-sized engines that municipalities had retired.”
All of the engines donated, although retired in Alberta, exceed their safety guidelines — meaning they should have long second lives in Paraguay.
The truck will soon begin its trek to South America, where upon arrival, it will be joined by Alberta firefighters to help train the local departments.
“This truck will be loaded tomorrow and is being sent to Vancouver, where it will be loaded on to a shipping container. It will be then transported next week on to a three-month journey down the west coast, through the Panama Canal, around the east coast of Brazil and then up from a river opening in Uruguay,” Nicholas said.