By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – The Morinville Fire Department was the backdrop for a CBC film crew Friday night who were in town to film Canadian Aid for Fire Services Abroad (CAFSA) founder Victor Fernandez.
The 54-year old St. Albert firefighter will be part of an upcoming national news story to air on CBC and is also currently one of the candidates for Canada’s Champions of Change, a contest that has already narrowed down a field of almost 2,000 volunteer nominees to a pool of 50, of which Fernandez is one. Ten finalists are set to be announced Nov. 15, but CBC did not disclose whether or not Fernandez is one of the ten finalists.
But Fernandez’ visit to Morinville was for a greater purpose than merely mugging for the CBC’s camera. As head of an organization that takes donated fire trucks and equipment to countries where the out-of-service gear can be of use fighting fires, Fernandez was in Morinville to receive two decommissioned trucks – a 1970 LaFrance and 1977 Superior.
“We go all over the world and donate fire trucks and firefighter equipment to take care of those firefighters that are going into a fire with running shoes, jeans and with the minimum of protective gear,” Fernandez told Morinville firefighters Friday night. “We’ve been in places in Guatemala, Ecuador, Chile, Columbia – all these places where they still have in 2010 bucket brigades.”
Fernandez said a truck like the 1977 Superior is a dream-come-true for those who will receive it.
“You are making a big difference with these people,” he said, adding the truck is slated to be taken to Malacatan, Guatemala. “This truck is going to have 20 plus more years of service. When you have a dream to help somebody, and you get a gift like that, it’s the ultimate.”
In addition to the two fire trucks, the Morinville Fire Department donated 10 complete sets of firefighter gear, two extra jackets and 16 safety harnesses. It is equipment that will be put to good use in another country.
Fernandez said CAFSA recently returned from his native Chile where a 500-member fire department had but eight pairs of firefighting gloves.
Deputy Mayor Paul Krauskopf, who was on hand for the equipment handover, said he was pleased to see the trucks going on to where they could be used again.
“I think something like this has more value than giving a country money,” Krauskopf said. “It’s giving them something concrete. It’s a great program they’ve got going.
After signing the trucks over to CAFSA, dispatch was notified the two trucks were out of service. They were then driven out of the station between two rows of firefighters. The trucks will be taken to their final destination by boat. There are plans to send a Morinville firefighter to Guatemala to train the locals on operating the Superior truck.
The two retired units were replaced Saturday with Morinville’s new $1.2 million Peirce aerial pumper.