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Donated fire truck headed from Grande Prairie to Honduras

The community of Roatán, Honduras will soon have a new fire truck, thanks in part to a local Rotary club and other businesses. Grande Prairie Sunrise Club international project chair Frank Havies drove the vehicle down to Edmonton Monday.

As a former firefighter, the cause is close to his heart. He was first introduced to the Roatán Bomberos de Honduras Fire Department on vacation years ago, and has been collecting firefighting equipment to send there since.

“They’ve got no equipment, their oxygen bottles have all expired, they’ve got no gear,” he explains. “When you and I are on vacation, these are the fellas that are coming to help us out if there’s a fire.”

The refurbished 1987 Ford C800 was bought at an auction and donated to the Edmonton Riverview Rotary Club. Having heard about the Grande Prairie club’s efforts, they got in touch. Using a $10,000 budget and many donated services, the truck was repaired, given a fresh coat of paint, and winterized.

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Once in Grande Prairie, it was inspected by Fountain Tire and had new tires and rims installed by TireSmith Tirecraft. The finishing touches were put on by Auto Grande Prairie North and TrimFX, and Prairie Villa Insurance covered the insurance premiums. Both the City and County of Grande Prairie then donated expired gear, which was re-certified by Vallen Safety Supply Equipment.

It’s expected the fire truck will arrive in Roatán within two to three weeks, and it will immediately be put to use. Havies says he’s excited to see two years of Rotary partnership come to fruition.

“They’ve got a crew of good young men there, and you don’t want to have anybody jeopardize themselves. [Our hope is] just to see them outfitted with proper gear… as a first responder you don’t want to see their lives in jeopardy.”

The Grande Prairie Fire Department also has a strong relationship with their counterparts in Roatán. For the past five years, they’ve been invited to the island to provide training for first responders.

Firefighter Phil Tufford went on this year’s trip with Lieutenant Brent Fulmek, and the pair led training on high angle rope rescues and techniques firefighters can use to escape from dangerous situations.

“They have to be very innovative,” Tufford admits. “It kind of opened up my eyes to realize that they can do so much with what little they have.”

When Tufford went to Roatán two years ago, the fire chief said they were in need of hazmat training as the island heavily relies on propane as a fuel. The hope is to bring some of their firefighters up to Grande Prairie to learn first-hand.

“Have them explore some of the tools we have, and because they’re very, very innovative, maybe they can help us help them create a hazmat mitigation tool for their needs,” Tufford explains. “They have nothing, so if we can help them fight fires, mitigate hazards, rescue people safely, then that’s definitely what we want to do.”

The new fire truck will only improve on that, Tufford adds. Captain Wilmer Guerro of the Roatán Bomberos du Honduras Fire Department echoes that sentiment, saying it will help meet the needs of their community.

“We feel very excited and grateful at the same time to be considered for such an invaluable contribution to our town,” he wrote in an email. “We thank each of those who are making this project a reality and are grateful for all our friends in Canada.”

Behind Tufford and Fulmek is a committee that includes Preben Bossen, Terry Haughian, Ian Krauskopf, Rob Martin, Jason Mazurkewich, Mike Tom Huete, Torren Freeman, and Neil Young. Kris Robins is also on the team, and travels to Honduras with the firefighters. Tufford credits her with much of their success.

In a little over a week, a convoy of emergency vehicles will also be driven from Grande Prairie to Mexico as part of the annual Highway to Mexico trip.

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