More fire gear headed from Elgin to Chile
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News March 14, 2013 4:16PM
Outdated firefighting and emergency services equipment, at least to U.S. standards, is set for shipping last summer from Elgin to firefighters in Chile. The gear was donated by fire departments and hospitals throughout northern Illinois. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 16, 2013 4:09PM
ELGIN — One of the bays at Elgin’s Fire Station 7 is overloaded with firefighting and lifesaving equipment, collected from area fire departments and hospitals.
In a week, the fire hoses, turnout gear, helmets, boots, nozzles, electronics and medical equipment — and more — will go into a shipping container on its way to Chile.
And in a month, an old Elgin fire engine also will head to the South American country. There, firefighters in Cauquenes will take the equipment — outdated and surplus by U.S. standards — and have new-to-them firefighting equipment in a country that has less.
The equipment will be spread among the volunteer fire companies in that community, said Elgin Fire Lt. Bob Bedard, who is spearheading the effort. The shipping costs are being paid by the Chilean recipients, he added.
The shipment is part of an ongoing “Sister Cities” effort being put forth by Bedard, his wife, Anne, and the Elgin Community Network. ECN is operating as the non-profit funding device for the effort.
Other partners include, among others, the city of Elgin and its emergency services, Gail Borden Public Library, Sherman Hospital, Cultural Arts Commission, and Elgin Association of Firefighters Local 439, which donated $10,000 toward costs.
The equipment comes from fire departments in MABAS Division II, including South Elgin, Hampshire, Burlington, Streamwood, West Dundee and Bartlett.
“Elgin has some real ties” to those fire departments, in many cases because their current or past fire chiefs came from Elgin, Bedard said.
None of the equipment was being used by the departments, he said, and in most cases it was considered surplus.
“This is a problem for the fire service — just about everything (being sent) no longer meets criteria,” he said. “You couldn’t sell it on Ebay, it has no value. You can’t give it away, and you can’t sell it.”
Many Chicago area fire departments have similar programs, where excess equipment is sent to Latin America once its usefulness here is over, Bedard said.
Bedard is most excited to see the old Elgin fire engine get sent, too.
The 1996 Pierce engine was recently traded in on a new engine, set to be delivered to the city next month. Bedard reached out to Pierce, which agreed to donate the engine back to the Chilean cause, he said.
The truck would have been dismantled for scrap if not for the opportunity to send it to Chile, he said. However, the 1996 truck will not be shipped until after the new truck arrives here, he said.
Elgin’s firefighters first began working with Chilean cities after the 2010 earthquake that devastated portions of that country. In 2011, a group of 15 area firefighters brought down and trained firefighters in Rancagua on the outdated equipment.
Also included in this shipment are children’s books, which will be donated to one of the poorest schools in the Chilean city. There, three Elgin residents hope to begin an English as a Second Language program during a visit, said Anne Bedard.
Plans are to video-blog and Skype with Elgin schoolchildren, to help create friendships between the two cities, she said.
Then, later this year, another group of area firefighters plans to visit Chile, too, to train the firefighters there on how to use the gear, Bob Bedard said.