We are taught as young children that if we are in an emergency situation, we call 9-1-1 and help will come. If there is smoke in the house, and the call is made, it doesn’t take long before you hear the sound of the firetruck siren making its way to the scene. That familiar red truck pulls up and a group of highly trained individuals decked out in their gear quickly moves into action to extinguish the blaze. What if that wasn’t the case? What if there wasn’t a truck, or gear, or highly trained firefighters that responded to the call? Sadly, that is a reality for many people throughout the world, which is why the charitable organization Firefighters Without Borders exists. The purpose of this program is to collect used equipment that is still in good working order from Canadian fire departments and ship the gear to countries that don’t have access to these items.
Captain Norm Hydamacka of the Martensville Fire Department (MFD) has been the Saskatchewan Regional Representative for Firefighters Without Borders Canada (FWBC) for the past five years and within that time, has seen some considerable donations made – over $1 million in fact. Nothing could prepare him for the incredible donation of a 1974 Dodge front-mount pumper firetruck made by the RM of Hoodoo.
When Hydamacka first became involved with FWBC, it was because the MFD had some older equipment that they were disposing of, and after doing some research, came across the organization. “We contacted them and said that we had some gear to be donated. From there, we sent it off to them and then they came back and said that they needed a person in Saskatchewan to be their contact and asked if I would be interested. That’s where it all started,” Hydamacka explained. In his new volunteer position, Hydamacka sent emails out to all of the fire departments within the province informing them that any old equipment and gear could be donated, and to contact him if they were interested. “We have received a little bit of everything. Basically anything inside of a fire hall has been donated; jackets, pants, helmets, hoses, flashlights, radios, computers, anything. It has been going really good, but getting a truck donated, that was something I had always hoped would happen, but never expected.”
The Cudworth & Wakaw Department had planned to donate some of their old equipment to FWBC and having just upgraded their truck, they had put the older model up for sale. Offers made on the truck were quite low, so Cudworth Fire Chief Dar Lariviere decided to speak to their Town Council as well as the RM and suggested donating the truck to a country that might not ever have the opportunity otherwise. The idea was approved, and Lariviere delivered the truck to the MFD on October 14th. Lariviere explained that although the truck still has a lot of life left in it, there are restrictions in Canada in place for how long fire equipment can be used. “For insurance reasons we can’t use it here, but we knew that it could be put to good use somewhere else. We have donated to Firefighters Without Borders before and when the idea was suggested, it was a unanimous yes throughout the department. The places that receive the donations don’t have the same support from their government that we do when it comes to fire apparatus, so donations can make a world of difference to them,” Lariviere said.
This fire truck marks the first one donated in Saskatchewan to FWBC, and with the truck having been purchased brand new in 1974 and having only 9,000 miles on it, it is sure to be a life changing addition to many people. Lariviere, who didn’t realize that this was the first Saskatchewan donated truck, said that his department was excited to find out, and has plans to continue to donate in the future. “You take care of your own, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter where the firefighters are in the world,” he said. Having seen the benefits that donations such as this one can make first hand while in the Air Force; Lariviere explained that although the truck can no longer be used in Canada, the receiving community will get years of use out of it. “These people won’t be carrying buckets to extinguish a fire now, they will actually have a truck to use, and we are just thankful that there is an organization like this in place that can help us get rid of old equipment and put it to good use elsewhere.”
Now comes the next step of the process – transporting the truck. Typically, all donations are sent by truck to Vancouver; however, as Hydamacka noted, “this is a lot different than a box of jackets in the back of a semi.” Currently, there are tentative plans in place for someone to come pick up the truck, drive it to Montana and then have the truck sent to Guatemala. “This is a life changing and lifesaving donation. It could literally be going to a department that doesn’t have a firetruck. A lot of these people don’t have gear or equipment to work with, so every donation is a big deal for them to receive. I know how I feel when our department gets a new truck, but I can’t even imagine the feeling of getting a truck when you have never had one before,” Hydamacka said.