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  1. #1
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    Default Old Fire Trucks Get New Life in Guatelama

    PROVIDENCE -- The convoy leaves for Central America this weekend, starting a 5,000-mile journey toward the mountains of Guatemala.

    It will cross into Guatemala at night, under cover of darkness, to evade the border guards with their hands open, expecting bribes from the long, strange convoy of red-and-white trucks.

    The trip will take them south through the United States, to Mexico, and finally into Guatemala, where the 15 obsolete Rhode Island fire trucks, ambulances, and shuttle vans, each driven by a Guatemalan firefighter, will rumble into Guatemala City to begin their new lives as the pride of the Guatemalan Fire Department.

    Thanks to two Rhode Island men, the Ocean State is now the lead supplier of equipment to the Guatemalan Fire Department, providing 30 vehicles to the small South American nation in the last two years. Fire departments statewide have agreed to donate their old vehicles for use in Guatemala, and 17 Guatemalan firefighters piled into two small Toyotas vans and traveled up to Rhode Island earlier this month to drive their prizes back.

    The firefighters have been here for weeks, asking for more first-aid equipment and repairing the older trucks. All 17 slept in one room in a Cranston motel, every inch of floor space used as a bed.

    Marco Antonio Perez, a galonista -- or lieutenant -- in the Guatemalan Fire Department, is a veteran on his third trip to Rhode Island. Like the others, he spent weeks on a Guatemalan street corner with a coffee can, begging for enough spare change to buy gasoline for the trip north.

    Thursday, he looked over a shuttle bus donated by the Crowne Plaza hotel, a blue-and-white Guatemalan flag in his hand. The trip was worth it.

    "This car will be used for transport for people in big accidents," Perez says proudly.

    He will drive this shuttle back to Guatemala, where it will be repainted and rushed into service as a front-line ambulance for one of Guatamala's 118 fire departments, joining 15 old Rhode Island fire trucks and rescue vehicles already operating in the small Central American country.

    In Guatemala, where barely functional dirt roads crisscross huge peaks and valleys, it can be 50 or 100 miles to the nearest fire station or hospital.

    Large accidents are common, in which a bus rolls over or spins out, injuring dozens. Victims can lie in the road for over an hour before the first ambulance arrives, and when it does, it's usually a tiny pickup, so small that the injured are stacked on top of one another in the back.

    Perez struggles for the words to describe the wretched conditions. He looks around the Crowne Plaza parking lot, and spots a small Datsun pickup truck. He gestures at the small truck bed, big enough perhaps to fit two people lying down.

    "This is all we have. We put quince, ah, 15 people in the back. It's very bad."

    Gordon Duke saw grisly scenes like that when he visited Guatemala 10 years ago.

    The former Providence firefighter first tried to bring Guatemalan firefighters to Rhode Island to teach them modern rescue techniques, an idea that went nowhere. Then, Hector Solis, a Central Falls mechanic and Guatemalan expatriate, was standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles one day when he met the chief of the Warren Fire Department, Al Galinelli. Solis floated the idea of Warren donating a truck to help the Guatemalan Fire Department.

    The U.S. resale value on these trucks is paltry, and Galinelli agreed to donate one. They settled upon an old Ford F-150, which immediately became the newest and best ambulance in all of Guatemala; when Pope John Paul II visited the country, the former Warren ambulance was assigned to follow the pope wherever he went.

    Duke and Solis heard about one another, and the two banded together to petition fire departments across Rhode Island for rescue equipment. They've been successful -- in addition to the 15 trucks they've already taken to Guatemala, this trip they'll drive down trucks from the Pottersville, Manville, Scituate, Hope Valley, and Hope/Jackson fire and rescue departments, and from Crowne Plaza owner Carpionato Properties and the City of Cranston.

    Duke's next step is to try to get proper training for many of the firefighters -- either by bringing them north, or sending trainers south.

    In one small town, the former Providence firefighter met a pair of paramedic/firefighters who had an ambulance, and some medical training, making them better off than most. But neither man knew how to drive. Whenever there was an emergency, the pair ran around the town pleading to townspeople to drive them to the scene of the shooting, or to the heart attack victim.

    But the training is something to think about later. For now, Duke and the Guatemalans must get these 15 trucks through.

    The trip down could take as few as 7 days, or as many as 12. They'll drive 16 hours a day, but the recent snowfall will slow them down, and a convoy of heavy trucks attracts a lot of attention, particularly through the more dangerous areas of Southern Mexico. It's not safe to drive at night there, Duke said.

    "It's like Wagon Train going out there. It's like you're in the 1850s," he said.

    There may be mechanical failures with the older trucks, and flat tires on the poor South American roads. But Duke is confident they'll all get there. Then, he'll fly back, and start drumming up supplies and vehicles to start the next convoy down.


  2. #2
    Senior Member FFMcDonald's Avatar
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    While I salute the Rhode Island fire departments that have aided these fire departments in Guatemala --

    I only wish that we could help fire departments throughout our own country that are desperately in need of the equipment.
    Marc

    "In Omnia Paratus"

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    -- The opinions presented here are my own; and are not those of any organization that I belong to, or work for.

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    MembersZone Subscriber sconfire's Avatar
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    I only wish that we could help fire departments throughout our own country that are desperately in need of the equipment.
    Good point... sad point but nevertheless a good point.
    Always remember the CHARLESTON 9

    Captain Grant Mishoe, Curator of History
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  4. #4
    Temporarily/No Longer Active Cellblock776's Avatar
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    ----------------------------------------------
    The U.S. resale value on these trucks is paltry, and Galinelli agreed to donate one. They settled upon an old Ford F-150, which immediately became the newest and best ambulance in all of Guatemala; when Pope John Paul II visited the country, the former Warren ambulance was assigned to follow the pope wherever he went.
    -----------------------------------------------
    It would have been nice if the Pope had done the 'Christian' thing and donated a brand new ambulance. The Pope could have had the Vatican ship an ambulance there before his trip and a couple of paramedic trainers could have gone with it. A couple of months of teaching classes to the locals before the Pope arrived would have been more than enough to get them up to speed. After the Pope leaves the ambulance stays and the crews have at least some training in operating it. But what does an Atheist like me know about the reasons why the church operates like it does?
    Steve

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    Originally posted by FFMcDonald
    I only wish that we could help fire departments throughout our own country that are desperately in need of the equipment.
    1) Can't help everybody that needs it. Reality of life.

    2) Many of the vehicles that RI agencies and departments have donated to Guatemala are not considered roadworthy by American standards and would be a substantial liability risk to both the department that received the vehicle and the one that donated it. I would imagine that the risks of a lawsuit are considerably less in Guatemala, and they can be put to good use.

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    Default roadworthy

    If these vehicles are not roadworthy by American standards, why are they being allowed to be driven across the United States?

  7. #7
    Forum Member codeblue81's Avatar
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    very good point. Plus I know that several FDs in the US would love to do abit of refurb. work to get a truck functional.

    code_blue81
    Jeremy Culver
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  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber sconfire's Avatar
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    Cellblock,
    While I know you are entitled to your opinion, please curtail comments about the church. You have your beliefs and I have mine but the comments are going to lead to some "hate and discontent" on the forums. I for one believe you are entitled to your beliefs, but please do not express your personel views at the expense of someone else's.

    If you would like to continue this off board... you can email me at editor@sconfire.com
    Always remember the CHARLESTON 9

    Captain Grant Mishoe, Curator of History
    North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum
    "You'll never know where you're going until you remember where you came from"
    www.legacyofheroes.org
    www.firehistory.org
    www.sconfire.com

  9. #9
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    Boy........ no good deed goes unpunished. Do something nice for somebody? No, you should've done it for someone ELSE.

  10. #10
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    That sound like a good project to be involved in!!!

    When I have been to Cabo Mexico I have seen trucks from Northern California. They still have the California station markings on them. I have been to Santiago Chile a few times. The city is 6 million, which is half of the entire population of the country. It is entirely volunteer. At alot of the major intersections I have seen firemen and firewomen out filling the boot. I should check in with my contacts there; if they can use some old California equipment.

  11. #11
    Senior Member FFMcDonald's Avatar
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    CollegeBuff -

    I was not trying to degrade your posting. I think that what those Rhode Island fire departments did was an extremely noble thing, and I am sure that those firefighters in Guatemala desperately need the apparatus they are receiving.

    BUT -
    There are many area's here in the United States that are in much the same need. I would rather that we take care of business here at home - before we go about saving the world.

    I go to college out in Oklahoma - and the majority of the fire departments here cannot afford fire apparatus, much less protective equipment needed to conduct a proper interior attack.

    In many towns here - a 'fire truck' is a 1960's military surplus vehicle, equipped with a 18hp Vanguard motor driving a 150 gpm pump. They might have a capacity of 500 gallons.

    As ciffret said-- if they don't meet US standards for roadworthiness, then what are they doing driving them across the US?
    Can't help everybody that needs it. Reality of life.
    I hear you brother -- but can't we look here in the US, before we send our resources elsewhere???
    Marc

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    -- The opinions presented here are my own; and are not those of any organization that I belong to, or work for.

  12. #12
    Forum Member FyredUp's Avatar
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    I also agree that the gift of this equipment was a noble act.

    But, and it is a big but, if the equipment is still serviceable and meets standards in the US maybe we should coinsider sharing with our brothers and sisters here too.

    I don't have to travel very far to find departments with obsolete fire engines, hose that is just plain dangerous, turn-out gear that should be junked and scba that my own little volly department quit using 20 years ago.

    Again I will not attack the nobility of their act just wondering why we can't once ina a while take care of our own poor destitute areas in the fire service.

    FyredUp

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    FFMcDonald maybe you should post some of pics you took a couple weeks ago out at RTFD. It would definately open some eyes.

  14. #14
    Senior Member FFMcDonald's Avatar
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    This is a vintage 26 year old military surplus M-813 5-ton truck that has been adapted for use a pumper. This is first due to any reported fire. All of this fire departments vehicles are surplus military vehicles obtained thru the Department of Forestry.

    Stop buggin me eng1321
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    Marc

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    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    You have your beliefs and I have mine but the comments are going to lead to some "hate and discontent" on the forums.
    If speaking the truth leads to "hate and discontent," then I say let the haters adjust their way of thinking. It isn't right to be able to question the intent of one group, while another is "untouchable."

  16. #16
    Forum Member Engine101's Avatar
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    Many fire department's out here do tthat as well, Former reserve apparatus is usually donated to help out poor Fire Department's in Mexico

  17. #17
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    It would have been nice if the Pope had done the 'Christian' thing and donated a brand new ambulance. .... But what does an Atheist like me know about the reasons why the church operates like it does?
    Simple reason not to. If he had, someone would have complained they didn't get one...just like people on this thread are complaining that RI donated below standard equipment. Maybe these poor, destitutes US companies need to put forth the efforts that these people in Guatemala are in finding donated equipment. Kudos to RI for their donations.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  18. #18
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    I like the idea of donating to South American departments, it doesnt hurt to have friends all over the world IMO. A lot of stuff like this pays off in political benefits later on in life, wheater intended or not.

    Also, I do agree that we need to do better for our US departments. IMO there is nothing wrong with DOD/military hand me down equipment, except for the very old stuff that needs to be passed on to other South American countries.

    IMO we need to get the seconds to our US departments first, then the 3rds to our friends in other countries.

    Truthfully, if the volunteer/local goverment fire service was given half the attention by the federal government that the USFS/BLM was given, every fire department would be equiped to an adequate standard. It is a goverment and burocricy problem IMO. There is a lot more that could be done for US departments.

    There is so muc DOD equipment around that we could make asome very capable fire trucks for nearly zero cost to small departments, it is however very difficult to get the DOD to part with it.

    The 1033 program shows some promis, but I have yet to find out what the fire district eleigability requirments are.
    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

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  19. #19
    Senior Member FFMcDonald's Avatar
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    There is so muc DOD equipment around that we could make asome very capable fire trucks for nearly zero cost to small departments, it is however very difficult to get the DOD to part with it.
    Yeah -- because they are kinda fighitng a war-- and need what they have??
    Marc

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    Member - IACOJ
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  20. #20
    MembersZone Subscriber SamsonFCDES's Avatar
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    They are not going to be handing out Hemets and Hummer any time soon, that is not what I am talking about. There is however literaly TONS of surpluss property at any given time that is waiting in storage for distribution some day, and that distribution will not be to a military unit that is going to see action.

    There is a lot of equipment that could be put into service for firefighting, the departments just have to get out there and get it. If there is a department that is needy in the US it is partialy their own fault, there are a lot of programs, grants and property, to outfit them with firefighting equipment. It just takes some thinking out of the box, which is not always easy for some folks.

    Here you go, free fire trucks if you qualify.

    http://www.csp.state.co.us/GSProg/1033.htm
    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

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