Lacombe Fire Department is looking to improve firefighting abroad

On March 27th, Lacombe County council voted unanimously in favour of donating a recently replaced Clive Fire Department engine to Lacombe Fire Department for the purpose of donating it to a fire department in Bolivia.

Lacombe Fire Chief Ed van Delden said he was very happy that the engine had been made available for this purpose.

He added the idea for donating a fire truck originally came about when Lacombe Fire Department was looking into what to do with its own engine that is currently in the process of being replaced.

But, when members heard that Clive’s engine could become available they jumped at the opportunity.

“I think all of us looked at each other and thought, ‘Hey, we don’t have to wait’,” said van Delden.

Typically, used fire engines are put to auction but make only a few thousand dollars in a sale if they sell at all, said van Delden. But, because of the standards relating to firefighting in most Canadian municipalities, most fire trucks still have very low mileages when they are put out of service and because of the high standards of care for firefighting apparatuses are often still in prime condition.

As such, van Delden and the rest of the Lacombe Fire Department started looking for a better way to repurpose the engine rather than have it sell for a measly sum or collect dust in storage.

While with a different department in 2010, van Delden had been part of a similar project where his department had partnered with Canadian Fire Services Abroad (CAFSA), who have put out a number of projects where firefighting apparatuses have been donated to countries in Central and South America.

He and the rest of the Lacombe department thought it would be a good idea to try something of that nature in Lacombe as well and in doing so reached out to the broader community a bit more.

van Delden added that some of the departments’ members had ties to charity organizations or similar programs already and one of their members, Ron Weich, is the operations manager for A Better World, who the Lacombe Fire Department has partnered with for this project.

Now, Lacombe Fire Department has an engine that is ready to donate, but they are still replacing their own engine as well.

van Delden said this situation may make it possible for the donation of more than one truck to Bolivia, depending on how long it takes to get everything in order for the donation, or perhaps even two separate donation projects.

van Delden went on to say that the process of importing fire trucks for is a long, time-consuming process that requires a lot of work and so he did not want to specify how many, if any, trucks will be donated.

But, if things work out well, there is the possibility for such donations to become a more common way for local fire departments to re-purpose their trucks.

“It is a lot of work,” said

van Delden. “I didn’t have an appreciation for how much bureaucracy was involved in importing used equipment.”

However, van Delden added there is good reason for the red tape.

Standards are set in place to ensure that countries are not importing junk for equipment and to prevent unwanted materials (such as noxious weeds transferred from soil on the truck’s tires) from being imported as well. He also said were the shoe on the other foot, he would probably go about importing used equipment the same way.

van Delden was clear that the project is not finalized, nor has it been 100% approved yet.

But, the project would likely see Lacombe Fire Department donate at least one engine to Bolivia and spend some time with the department abroad to train firefighters on the use and maintenance of the apparatus.

If the Lacombe Fire Department is not able to donate the engine or engines themselves, van Delden said that there is still the possibility for them to be donated to an organization like CAFS or Firefighters Without Borders and still have it used in a similar way.

By Brian Vossen – Lacombe Express