PEI

P.E.I. firefighter collects 1,000 sets of fire gear for Mexico

P.E.I. firefighter Kory MacAusland never imagined he'd be helping 1,000 firefighters in Mexico, but this year that's exactly what he'll be doing with his organization, The Canadian Bomberos.

Kory MacAusland began donation drive after training Mexican firefighters in 2015

Mexican firefighters Paco Ramirez, left, and Fernando Palacios, right, attended the Maritime Fire Chiefs Association Annual Conference this past weekend with P.E.I. firefighter Kory MacAusland (middle) to help thank those who have donated and to gather more gear. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

P.E.I. firefighter Kory MacAusland never imagined he'd be helping 1,000 firefighters in Mexico, but this year that's exactly what he'll be doing with his organization, The Canadian Bomberos.

It all started when he was training firefighters in the Mexican state of Queretaro in 2015 and saw the poor condition of some of the gear.

"The plan from the start was a few sets of gear and a bag, " he said. 

That grew to 250 full sets of gear by May last year, plus hoses, Jaws of Life and other emergency equipment. The movement grew to include donations from across P.E.I., Nova Scotia and even into Quebec and Ontario, and it keeps going. 

At the Maritime Fire Chiefs Association Annual Conference this past weekend, they reached the 1000-set mark.

Finding space for all the gear can be tough, says MacAusland. (Submitted)

Very grateful 

Two firefighters from Queretaro were visiting the conference and helping to thank those who have donated.

Fernando Palacios said the 11 fire departments that will be helped could never have afforded the gear.

"For example my city fire department gets 52 per cent cost funded by the city and the state.... But that 52 per cent pretty much takes all the gas and the payroll, so there's never enough money to get equipment."

Palacios said the gear was in such bad shape in some departments that it was interfering with firefighters doing their job. 

"They would go in without gear or with gear in really bad shape, like you could see the jeans underneath the pants," he said. 

The donations include this gear from Lantz, N.S. (Submitted)

Palacios said the donations should help reduce injuries and deaths.

He said crews were shocked when the first shipment came down. Now he can't believe 1,000 firefighters will be helped. He said he's honoured and grateful.

"A lot of the gear we've seen in this visit is just like brand new. And for us a ten- or fifteen-year-old bunker gear is ... like new," he said.

The gear being donated is not up to Canadian regulations anymore, but still safe. It is all inspected in Canada, cleaned and then inspected again in Mexico.

All of the gear is cleaned and inspected in both Canada and Mexico. (Submitted)

MacAusland said he also has plans for next year to move the program into Uruguay.

"Of course it makes you feel good," he said. "It feeds the soul, so it's something we'll keep on going." 

now