Thanks to the Clinton Volunteer Fire Department, some outdated firefighting turnout gear and breathing packs that are no longer up to code in British Columbia and would otherwise have to be thrown out will find a new life in Nicaragua, where they will be given to firefighters in that country.
Clinton Fire Chief Wayne Walch says that the equipment was found when firefighters did a clean-out at the fire hall. There was nothing wrong with the equipment, but as it no longer conforms to provincial code it would have ended up in the trash.
However, Walch knew of an initiative run by Kamloops Fire Rescue (KFR) which collects outdated emergency equipment, tests and packages it, and ships it to Nicaragua. It’s the first time the Clinton Fire Department has contributed items to the project, and Walch says it was a decision of the entire department. “The equipment has been on the shelf for a long time. Rather than throw it out, they can use it. They’ll take everything they can get.”
Kamloops Fire Rescue’s Lt. Dave Sakaki, who spearheads the initiative, agrees. Since Operation Nicaragua started in 2009, 12 fire engines, 2 ambulances, and 13 shipping containers full of items donated by firefighters, paramedics, the police, and others have been sent to the South American country. They come from emergency service providers all over Canada and the United States; Sakaki says they recently received an ambulance donated from Washington State.
The initiative started with KFR sending items to Africa, and while it went very well, Sakaki said the distance meant it was very expensive to send things there. He decided to focus on somewhere closer to home, and has developed a great relationship with firefighters in South America. “There’s a huge need in Nicaragua; a lot of the fire departments there have nothing. You have guys wearing jeans, T-shirts, and running shoes fighting fires. Gear that’s three years out of date is better than that.”
Sakaki adds that there’s nothing wrong with the equipment and gear they send; it’s simply past its expiry date here, but otherwise in good condition. “I won’t send anything I wouldn’t wear into a fire. If I won’t use it personally, I won’t send it.”
Sakaki says they try to send two containers full of equipment and two or three fire engines to South America each year. “We want to get this stuff where it needs to go.”
A total of nine SCBAs (breathing packs), 14 jackets, and 7 pairs of pants from the Clinton Fire Department will be in the next container shipped to Nicaragua.