BROOKFIELD – Firefighters in Mexico will be better protected thanks to donations from around the province and beyond.
Shaun Burke, a firefighter with Brookfield Fire and Emergency Services, traveled to Queretaro City, Mexico, last month to deliver roughly 300 sets of firefighter gear he’s collected over the past two years.
“It is an eye opener for sure,” said Burke, who returned home on Easter Sunday. “The lack of funds, equipment, and supplies is very apparent, but the department in Queretaro has advanced greatly in the last two years from what Kory can see. But there is definite room for improvement.”
Burke is referring to Kory MacAusland, a firefighter from Prince Edward Island who is the inspiration behind Burke’s efforts. MacAusland has done some training with firefighters in Mexico and saw first-hand the lack of equipment they were using. He collected gear previously, and Burke put the call out in Nova Scotia.
“I didn’t have any sort of goal in mind, it was just one of those things I put my hand forward for. There was no goal, no kudos needed. It’s just what I do.”
The gear Burke has been collecting is older gear from departments in the province, as well as others in neighbouring provinces. It’s expired and or retired, and the respective firefighters are no longer able to utilize the gear here, however those in Mexico are in dire need.
“If you’re using the gear for interior attack, it’s probably good for about 10 years,” said Burke. “For others…20 years, maybe longer.”
Helmets, he said, expire after the 10-year mark in the province.
Burke said he’s both shocked and surprised by the donations he’s received – he still has another 300 sets or so in his garage at home to make the trip down.
“But with my experience with the fire service, people don’t like to throw gear out, especially if it can be useful in the future,” he said.
Along with the sets of pants and jackets, Burke and MacAusland transported helmets, boots, two porta-tanks, two sets of hydraulics (Jaws of Life), and two saws, as well as numerous gloves and flash hoods. Some departments even had old hoses, nozzles, and fittings they donated to the cause.
“Some of them are older than I am, and again, they don’t throw them out. But for someone who doesn’t have anything, this stuff is worth their weight in gold,” he said.
Firefighters in Queretaro City would be receiving black gear that had been donated, to go along with other black gear they were already given.
“There are about 12 or 13 sets of blue, and they’ll be going to the city as well. They have set up a rescue crew to go to Mexico City following earthquakes, and with orange helmets they’ll be easily identifiable. It’s also an accountability thing, so they don’t lose somebody,” he said.
Burke and MacAusland drove the gear to Mexico, with members of the firefighters association in Mexico meeting them along the way to help with transport. Transportation costs were covered by the Mexican association. During the stay, MacAusland had a few days of training already scheduled, and the Governor of State hosted them for a special ceremony to signify the handing over of the equipment.
“It was quite an experience and eye opener. People have no idea how lucky they are, not just departments but everyone,” he said.
While Burke isn’t sure when the next delivery will be, he continues to store the gear in his garage and a container for that specific purpose. He will also continue to collect any gear departments are willing to donate to the cause.
“All the people are great, even with the language barrier,” Burke admitted. “The fire service tends to attract the best people.”
To keep up-to-date on the progress of both Burke and MacAusland, follow the Canadian Bomberos page on Facebook.