A member of the Kelowna Fire Department will spend his spring vacation with a group of other B.C. Firefighters in Peru, providing enhanced training for South American firefighters known as Bomberos.
Glenn Paley will travel with Firefighters Without Borders Canada on April 1 to Peru to continue the development of a working relationship with the Peruvian Fire Service. FWB Canada has delivered two large donations of used firefighting equipment to Peru over the last two years.
“I’m very passionate about the fire service and being a part of the brotherhood of firefighting,” said Paley. “I’m excited to pass on some of the knowledge and experience that I have gained here in North America and share it with the Peruvian Bomberos.”
He said volunteering to help train firefighters in other parts of the world is his way of giving back. And he said, it’s also because of the people he met and worked with a year ago when he first went to Peru on a similar deployment.
“They were were just so nice and friendly and welcoming. Many have become friends,” he said.
Paley, who is making his second trip to Peru to help train firefighters there, sees this as an opportunity to take the knowledge he’s gained over the last 20 years in the fire service here, and guide the Bomberos towards more safe and efficient firefighting practices.
He described the conditions for firefighters in the South American country as being about where they were here when he joined the Kelowna Fire Department 20 years ago. But that is in the larger cities like the capital Lima. In the smaller, rural communities, it’s worse, with equipment that is very old and training has been sparse in the past.
Still, many firefighters there are third and fourth general Bomberos (Spanish for firefighters) and there is a lot of pride in the job.
One big difference between Peru and Canada is the number of women firefighters, said Paley. In some areas, women account for as much as 20 per cent of the firefighter complement.
As a training captain with the KFD, Paley will be responsible for putting together the training plans for the trip.
He said differences in building composition—most buildings there are masonry, not wood, as well as and standard of equipment—means a different approach to fighting fires. Culture also plays a part and then there’s the issue of language. The team has two Spanish-speaking firefighters going with them—one, a firefighter originally from El Salvador who moved to Canada and joined a Lower Mainland department after being trained in his native country in part by an earlier FWB Canada team.
While in Peru, the team will also use translators who have a knowledge of firefighting because they terms that firefighters use, said Paley.
Along with the other members of FWB Canada team, Paley has been involved in fundraising efforts and securing donations of equipment for the team’s deployment to Peru.
FWB Canada and its members bear all the costs of shipping equipment, developing training programs, travel expenses and they use their vacation time for the missions.
While the team leader, a Vancouver Fire Rescue Services lieutenant and three other members will be making their their fourth trip to Peru and Paley his second, the rest of the firefighters accompanying them will be going for the first time.
The Cuerpo General de Bomberos Voluntarios del Peru is an all-volunteer national fire service serving more than 29 million Peruvians. There are approximately 10,000 male and female Bomberos stationed at 196 fire halls across the country.
While Peru is currently experiencing a booming economy, the fire service there is trying to modernize, with its main emphasis being on improved training.
This year’s FWB Canada team of instructors will spend two weeks delivering intensive training, covering a range of topics including positive pressure ventilation, auto extrication, emergency scene management, essential fire attack skills, first aid/EMS, driver operator training, fire ground survival and fire investigation
Firefighters Without Borders Canada is a registered charity that began as a group of dedicated firefighters in 2008 calling itself Engines for El Salvador. It them became Firefighters Without Borders BC and then Firefighters Without Borders Canada.
Its mission is to collect outdated firefighting equipment and donate it to countries where there is a need.
Since 2008, the group has donated 13 fire trucks, more than 1,000 sets of turnout gear, more than 400 breathing apparatus and 20 tons of equipment valued at more than $2 million to Belize, Cebu, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Thailand.
In the last five years, the group has sent firefighters on training missions to El Salvador five times, Paraguay four times; Peru three times and once each to Panama and Thailand.