Area firefighter one of ten finalists in CBC competition

Morinville Fire Chief ron Cust poses with his counter part from Malacatan, Guatemala, Fire Chief Duarlie Lieaurdie. - Submitted Photo

By Staff

Morinville – The Morinville Fire Department provided the backdrop to a CBC news crew last month when 54-year-old St. Albert firefighter and Canadian Aid for Fire Services Abroad (CAFSA) founder Victor Fernandez was filmed receiving two fire trucks from the department.

Fernandez’ organization takes old fire equipment no longer of use in Canadian departments to third world countries to continue on in their original intended purpose.

It is a charitable passion that elevated Fernandez from a pool of 2,000 Canadian volunteer nominees to a pond of 50 and on to the much smaller group of ten finalists in the CBC’s Champions of Change competition. Fernandez’ segment ran on the CBC Monday night, providing Canadians an opportunity to see the work Fernandez and his organization does and to allow viewers to determine if he is worthy of their vote in the challenge.

From left: Guatamalan Fire Chief Duarlie Lieaurdie, Victor Fernandez and Morinville Fire Chief Ron Cust. - Submitted Photo
As of Dec. 6, 61,486 Canadians had voted for one of the ten finalists in the competition. The top two ultimate Champions of Change are scheduled to be announced by the CBC Jan. 16. Each of the finalists will receive $25,000 for their cause.

Fernandez came to Canada from Chile in the 1980s, settling in St. Albert, but never forgot that firefighting in his native country an all-volunteer effort that is often under-funded. As such, he has long championed finding ways to provide countries less fortunate than Canada in obtaining equipment needed to fight fires and save lives.

The humanitarian firefighter’s visit to Morinville last month was to officially receive from the hands of Morinville Fire Chief Ron Cust two decommissioned trucks – a 1970 LaFrance and 1977 Superior, units replaced the next day with the receipt of Morinville’s new $1.2 million aerial ladder and pumper unit.

The units are destined for Malacatan, Guatemala and the town’s fire chief, Duarlie Lieaurdie, was in Morinville this weekend to take part in the department’s Christmas party and to personally shake the hand of as many Morinville firefighters as possible, thanking each and telling them how important the department’s donation to his country was.
It was a moving experience for Morinville Fire Chief Ron Cust.

“At the Morinville Fire Fighters Christmas party it was the perfect time to see into the eyes of this firefighter from an underprivileged country and how important it is to their safety and sense of community,” Cust said. “My crew very much appreciates the support we get from the Town of Morinville, primarily, and Sturgeon County, so we took the time to remember how lucky we are in Alberta. The thank you from Chief Duralie directly to each firefighter present was so sincere I felt that we still have not done enough for our firefighting brothers and sisters in the third world country of Guatemala.”

But while Cust was glad to have met his Guatemalan counterpart, he realizes the fraternal exchange would not have been possible without the efforts of Victor Fernandez and CAFSA.

People wishing to cast their vote for Victor Fernandez can do so at Participants are able to vote up to ten times.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for your support and coverage of this very important moment in the 60 years that the firefighters have provided fire service to the Morinville and area residences.

    We wish that all the town could have been there to experience the moment. The coverage by CBC last night again put Morinville on the map nationally as we understand community sometimes means reaching out to help others in countries we will never visit.

    The Morinville Fire Department will be fundraising to send a member down to help train on the trucks the town has donated.

    Make sure you tell town council how important this act of kindness is and hhow it shows we are a caring community.

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