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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.

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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

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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

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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?

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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
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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

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

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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.

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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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    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.

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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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    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."

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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

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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?

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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.
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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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    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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    Oops, wrong link, that is a good one with pictures of surpluss fire trucks, Yippy!!!

    Here is a good link for surpluss property.

    http://www.drms.dla.mil/index.html
    -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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    I guess im looking at it a little differently. Who made the decision to donate these trucks? Im guessing they were paid for by either tax money or by fire- dues/donations. The North East is taxed fairly heavily.And as a taxpayer, I would want some input. And I know "they wouldnt sell for much" but why give away a servicable piece of equipment? I dont believe they should be given away to any department, foreign or domestic. Welfare has failed on all levels in my opinion and a fire department shouldnt be any different. If you cant afford to purchase something, can you afford to properly mantain it? And I cant help but wonder , are some of these trucks class A pumpers?
    I question the worth of a custom chassis engine , proably 30 long -- in an area with narrow un paved roads. Just my opinion.

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    Perhaps the well intentioned RI guys should have contacted Helping our own first.

    http://www.helpingourown.com/

    And then in turn, the needy departments that recieved the RI engines could have donated their rust bucket POS vehciles to South America.

    That would not have been that bad IMO.
    -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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    I want to throw a few figures out to go with this story.
    Right now, Helping Our Own has over 5,600 US departments signed up for assistance. The only requirement for them to apply is that they have an annual budget of less than $15,000. The average budget of the depts signed up is around $4,000. Most do not have a true pumper, but of the ones that do, the average age of the pumpers is in the early to mid 1960's.
    Lots of them have brush trucks as first out apparatus. I have seen many that only have a pickup with a small tank and a portable pump.
    And speaking of roadworthyness and rules, why is it that the most beat up , non-roadworthy truck can cross over into the USA but very few of our "roadworthy" trucks are allowed into Mexico. They dont pass their standards. I know of many companies that haul their loads to the border towns and drop them so the trucks from Mexico can come across and get them.
    Put it like this. A piece of apparatus that is old and tired to one department is like a brand new rig to another. Most are capable of doing the repairs and updates to make or keep the rigs safe and roadworthy. I have also seen 1950's and 1960's pumpers, that were in better shape than many of the 1980 models around. Falls back to number of miles/calls etc but also to How they were maintained.
    My department has a 1965 Howe pumper that is as roadworthy as any 1990's model truck. Yes it only has 12,000 miles , but it also stills looks and operates as good as the day it was delivered. Maintenance!
    There are approximately 30,000 US firefighters who do not have BASIC Personal Protection Equipment. Many fight fires in regular street clothes.
    There is a need for at least 20,000 SCBA to equip every dept with at least 4 SCBA's.
    The last study reported that an average of 3 BILLION dollars worth of used and surplus firefighting gear and equipment is either destroyed or shipped to other countries every year. All the while we have thousands of US depts needing BASIC gear.
    As for Liability, THERE IS NONE if it is done properly. A few states have already passed laws relieving liability on donating fire gear and equipment EXCEPT for Manufacturers. I helped get such a law passed here in Arkansas this year. Arkansas Act 1075 of 2003.
    Regarding the roadworthyness of these trucks. I guarantee there are hundreds or even thousands of trucks in service in the US that are in worse shape but are still responding to calls all the time.
    This is one reason Helping Our Own has started putting together a refurbishing center at the headquarters in Jackson, Michigan. All trucks donated in the future will be refurbished ie. Totally replacing the old brakes, Checking and repairing as needed the drivetrain and engines,and certifying the pumps before they leave. They will not be painted but will be in excellent mechanical shape before they are donated to a department. This will begin IF the large coorporate sponsors come through like they say they will.
    As for the taxpayers of the northeastern US. If they saw the gear that their departments are discarding or donating, they would probably not like it. Much of it is 2 to 5 years old and is in good to excellent condition BUT the depts have to replace it in order to keep the budget they have.
    Now as to the Remark that welfare has failed on all levels. First, we dont consider this welfare, It is GOOD COMMON SENSE to place safe workable gear and equipment where it is needed here in the USA rather than to destroy it or ship it off shore.
    We still hear the remark ocassionally- " I would rather throw it away than have anyone else get some use out of it, or get us sued over it!" How ridiculous is that.
    There has NEVER been a case study ,Yet, of anyone being sued over donations of gear or equipment. There are many ways and many legal ways to relieve liability ,so the statement " I cant because of liability", doesnt work anymore.
    Folks, no matter how good or bad you have it where you are at, just remember that there are thousands of our US brothers and sisters busting their tails everyday to keep their departments functioning and equipped. Funding is not very good in Most of the country.
    I agree that those departments in other countries need help also. but we need to take care of home first and quit using lame excuses to get out of it.
    I had a giveout here last Saturday. I had 40 departments here and we gave out a 45 foot trailer load of gear and equipment. The look on the faces of the people who receive these donations is unreal. Many have never seen these "New" turnouts, which are 5 to 10 years old. Some still have the old rubber coats, or the old cotton duck coats if they had any at all.
    I have a little over 100 departments signed up in Arkansas so far and figure I have 500 to 600 more to go before I can say I have helped the ones who need it the most.
    Yes, they dont have big numbers of runs, but isnt any structure fire just as dangerous for them as any other fire the rest of us roll up on ?
    Thanks for listening and STAY SAFE !!!!
    Asst Chief Tyler Sitzer
    Weiner Vol Fire & Rescue Dept, Weiner, ARK &
    Arkansas Coordinator for Helping Our Own,Inc.

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    Much of it is 2 to 5 years old and is in good to excellent condition BUT the depts have to replace it in order to keep the budget they have.
    Dude, I live in the Northeast and don't know of a single department within 60 miles that does this. Second, there are many departments, like my own, where the equipment is purchased through a budget that is given to us by our town, so in essence they own the equipment. They do not allow donations to of equipment to private organinzations, like your own. We know, we tried. Complain all we want, but they don't allow it. Don't write off all northeast departments, some are trying.
    "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?

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