A pile of old text books, breathing equipment and hoses are slowly accumulating at Squamish Fire Rescue’s main fire hall.
It’s all equipment in working order, but because of new protocols or new technology, it’s been abandoned by the department. But soon it will find a new home, likely in a rural village in Central America.
“This is the third time we have done it,” Fire Chief Russ Inouye said.
Squamish Fire Rescue is a supporter of Firefighters Without Borders (FWB). Much like the international organization Doctors Without Borders, the non-profit firefighter group assists fire departments worldwide with specific skills, training or resources related to the fire service.
Created in 2002, FWB started as a tribute to Canadian firefighter Kevin Bailey, who died in 2001 in an off-duty rock climbing accident. After his death, through World Vision, Bailey’s fire department colleagues learned about a fire in Ventanilla, Peru, that left 604 people homeless, so they began collecting equipment. Before long, they had filled a container, which was shipped to South America.
“They’ve (FWB) have sent fire trucks,” Inouye said. “If you have anything, they’ll come and collect it.”
The organization is expanding its reach to Asia, Inouye said. Firefighters in many small villages don’t have much more than buckets and hoses, he said.
There’s a kinship among firefighters around the world, Inouye said. Battling blazes comes with an element of risk no matter where you’re from, he said.
“I don’t think the job is that much different [globally],” Inouye said. “Fires are fires.”
Municipalities with large fire departments — 24-plus fulltime employees — often run exchange programs with departments from different countries, he said, noting Whistler had a year-long exchange program with Australia.
Squamish Fire Rescue has six fulltime firefighters at its department and approximately 50 paid, on-call volunteers.
The district is a privileged community in so many ways, and every little bit the municipality can do to pass on assistance to others less equipped than the district is important, Squamish Mayor Rob Kirkham said.
“This donation serves to help other communities, and at the same time diverts waste from the landfill, so the benefits to supporting such a cause are clear,” he said.