Two fire trucks that used to spend their days racing to Yukon fires will soon make a much longer trip to lend a hand, travelling more than 7,000 kilometres from British Columbia to Nicaragua.
The Town of Faro, as well as the City of Whitehorse, are each donating a truck to Project Nicaragua, a campaign run by the Kamloops Fire Department to bring fire trucks and equipment to communities in need in Nicaragua.
“We’re all sisters and brothers and I think there’s a need… to help protect lives and property down there,” said Mike Martin, a Whitehorse firefighter and member of the campaign.
“My job as a firefighter here is not limited to this town.”
Project Nicaragua has been around for at least the last seven years, sending fire trucks and fire equipment to the Central American country.
A revolution in Nicaragua during the 1980s destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, Martin said. Many of Nicaragua’s fire departments are run by volunteers.
“In Nicaragua they are full of passion and heart when it comes to their firefighting. They’re so passionate about it and they don’t have the equipment.”
The Faro fire truck has been on long journeys before. The community bought the Ford/Hub truck new in 1988.
In order to get it to Faro, the truck was originally barged from Seattle up to Skagway and then driven up the highway.
It was taken out of service last year because of a pump failure, said acting Faro fire chief Ian Dunlop.
It needs a new pump seal and some other work. Faro officials estimate fixing the truck would cost between $8,000 and $30,000. They decided to buy a second-hand fire truck from Dawson instead.
The chassis of the truck is Brazilian. Bringing it to Central America means fixing it up will likely be easier, Dunlop said.
“They have no shortage of labour and materials that would actually be able to fix this truck up and make it operational again.”
Martin said trucks that may not be able to work in Canada can be modified to work in Nicaragua.
“We can go down there and take a truck that has no pumping capabilities, it’s just a water tanker, and they could put a portable pump on the back, even a forestry pump,” he said.
“As long as they’ve got the water, with a forestry pump and some hose, they can do the job that they need to do down there.”
The Whitehorse fire department truck going south is a retired pumper from 1994. Chief Kevin Lyslo said trucks usually last about 20 years before they are retired and, usually, auctioned off. This truck will instead be donated.
The organization used to get the trucks shipped for free on a large freighter that made regular trips from Vancouver to Nicaragua.
But the company recently lost the contract to make those trips and the organization lost its free ride.
It had to come up with a new way to transport the trucks.
Now the plan is to drive a convoy of fire trucks and a few ambulances from the warehouse in Kamloops, where they are being stored currently, to Nicaragua.
“We’re hoping to gain some interest with sponsorships for trucks and possibly make a movie out of it to pay for the expenses,” Martin said.
There’s no word yet on which Nicaraguan communities will get the Yukon trucks. That decision is made by local fire chiefs.
If everything goes as planned, the convoy will begin its trip sometime next fall.
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