East Salem Rotary Club sends rescue supplies to Mexico for local firefighters

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Firefighting equipment that has passed its legal lifespan in the United States is bundled and shipped to Mexican firefighters, saving them costly purchases.

Organizers meet last month when dispatching a heavy rescue truck full of firefighting equipment. The equipment was collected by the Rotary Club of East Salem for delivery to volunteer firefighters in Mexico. (Photo submitted)

A fire truck loaded with medical supplies and firefighting recently dispatched a volunteer fire department to Guaymas, Mexico, as part of a donation orchestrated by a group from Salem.

The heavy rescue was packed with helmets, breathing apparatus, protective gear, boots, hoses, fire extinguishers, and an expensive hydraulic rescue tool called the Jaws of Life.

In total, the shipment was worth around $ 500,000 in Mexico. In the United States, where the National Fire Protection Association dictates that most firefighting equipment should be retired after a decade, the market value of supplies was close to zero.

“They are considered obsolete and they cannot be officially used for firefighting functions,” said Kevin Mannix, president of the East Salem Rotary Club. “Often they are in perfect working order. ”

Over the past few years, the club has coordinated with Juan Armenta of the Hubbard Fire Department and Raul Garza of the Woodburn Fire Department to collect expired material from area departments to send to Guaymas’ department.

“We were able to outfit a lot of volunteer departments there with outfits, boots and gloves that they had to buy themselves out of pocket,” Garza said. “That’s our goal – at least to give them some kind of protection.”

According to Armenta, this is the seventh such expedition to Mexico in 13 years. Guaymas is a town of about 120,000 people along the eastern Gulf of California coast, located 300 miles south of the US border.

“We collect supplies that are no longer in use and keep them until we have enough to be able to send in bulk,” Garza said. “It usually takes us about two to three years to assemble the supplies. ”

This latest expedition is the first to include a heavy rescue fire truck, filling a gap in the existing service of the volunteer service. Past donations to firefighters included smaller ambulances or rescue trucks, but never full-service fire trucks.

The engine was shipped on October 18 on a flatbed truck. This was to avoid putting unnecessary miles on a truck not designed to travel long distances, Mannix said. He arrived at the border on October 20 and continued his journey south.

Garza obtained the rescue truck from the Camas, Washington Fire Department. That’s his job on the team – coordinating with the Pacific Northwest departments to find any equipment near the end of its legal lifespan.

The Salem Rotary Club is covering all incidental costs, which in this case included just $ 5,000 to purchase the motor and an additional $ 5,000 in shipping, Mannix said.

Armenta is working with firefighting services in Mexico to identify their needs. Mario de la Cruz, a contact colleague and firefighter in the border town of Nogales, takes care of the legal logistics.

“Mario was the link,” Armenta said. “He does all the paperwork.

The effort began over ten years ago, when de la Cruz contacted Armenta and suggested that they work together.

“He sent photos about the poor quality of the equipment,” Armenta said. “We started sending photos and figuring out their needs and what they were looking for.”

This first shipment went to Nogales. Once this department acquired better equipment, Armenta and de la Cruz began to look to other municipalities in the region who could make good use of the donated supplies. The result is a lasting relationship.

“They are 100 percent volunteers, they don’t get paid for anything and it’s almost impossible to get equipment,” said Armenta, who also works for her department on a volunteer basis. “Anything that will improve the Guaymas firefighters – the bomberos. “

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