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Yukon fire trucks to get second life in Nicaragua

Two Yukon fire trucks - one from Whitehorse, one from Faro - are being re-tired and will soon make their way to Nicaragua.

Yukon Fire Fighter trucks get new lease on life, where they are desperately needed

A fire truck in Faro, Yukon, waiting to make the trip to Central America. (Ian Dunlop)

A holiday trip seven years ago to Nicaragua set in motion a dream for a Whitehorse firefighter to help out some poorly-equipped firefighters in that country.

Mike Martin saw an urgent need in Nicaragua, so he started searching for retired emergency equipment in B.C. and the Yukon, including pumper trucks and ambulances.

Now he's got two fire trucks, from Faro and Whitehorse, ready to be given a second life in Central America.

Many fire departments across Nicaragua had been destroyed during the country's revolution. Since then, volunteer firefighters in Nicaragua have been working to rebuild and re-supply their emergency services. 

Martin's idea grew into a partnership with the fire department based in Kamloops, B.C., called "Project Nicaragua", which has found and donated nine firefighting trucks to Nicaragua over the last seven years.

The Whitehorse fire department's pumper 4 served downtown Whitehorse and the Riverdale subdivision for 20 years. (Whitehorse Fire Department)

One of the trucks was donated jointly by the volunteer fire departments in Skagway, Alaska and Carcross. Another, Martin bought in Prince Rupert, B.C. for $5,600. 

Two of the fire trucks are now in a town called Chinandega.

Martin says there are cities in Nicaragua with over 100,000 people, and no firefighting equipment or ambulance capability.

He says even old equipment can be useful.

"We might be sending a truck down that doesn't even have a pump that is working. As an example, they would just use it as a water tanker, put on a portable water pump on the back, re-jig it so it works for them, and do their fire fighting."

Pumper four

The Faro fire truck that's being donated served that community since being purchased new in 1988. It has now been replaced in Faro by a newer truck from Dawson City.

The other pumper is being donated by the Whitehorse fire department and is currently sitting in Kamloops. A trucking company helped ship it down from Yukon at a reduced price. 

Whitehorse fire chief Kevin Lyslo said 'we miss all our old trucks, but at the same time, you get a bright new shiny one." (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

Kevin Lyslo, the Whitehorse fire chief, says pumper four served the downtown and Riverdale area of Whitehorse for over 20 years so it was time to replace it. 

"It carries a compliment of ladders and hose, and a fairly large water tank on it," said Lyslo. "It also has a capability of carrying four firefighters on it, and it would be basically outfitted to respond to a resident or commercial address and deal with any kind of structural fire."

The old Faro pumper truck will be either shipped by truck  or driven to Kamloops in the coming weeks, Martin said.

'Not the destination but the journey'

Martin says volunteer firefighters in Nicaragua really appreciate equipment such as firefighting protective gear that's donated.

"We once asked them at one hall, 'do you have any firefighting gear?' and they said, 'oh yeah, we have two sets of protective gear,'" he said.

"So we had a look, and what they did was take the liner out of the shell of one piece of turnout protective gear, and called it two."

The goal is to drive to Nicaragua next year. (Trevor Piercey )

​In the past, Project Nicaragua's trucks were shipped to Nicaragua for free by an international shipping company, but that company lost its contract to ship goods to Central America.

Martin says the plan now is on make the roughly 7,000 kilometre trip by convoy. He says they have never done that before, and there are still a lot of logistics and planning to be done.

He is hoping to take time off work and travel in September of 2017. The organization also needs to raise money for travel expenses. 

"It's not the destination but the journey," Martin said.

He says Project Nicaragua is looking to make a documentary film of the trip.

"Every time we get a truck to a new town, there is a parade in the town. The minister comes out and blesses the truck and it's huge," he said.

"And these were trucks we were just going to decommission." 

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