The rule according to the Fire Underwriters Survey is that any fire truck aged 20 years or more – no matter its condition – must be taken out of service.
Provincial forestry can’t buy and use the trucks. Neither can oil patch companies. The decommissioned trucks are tested regularly, meticulously, annually, and inspected by the Ministry of Transportation. But once they reach 20 years of age, out they go.
Former Armstrong Spallumcheen Fire Department (ASFD) volunteer Joe Van Tienhoven had a problem with that.
And the current Township of Spallumcheen councillor did something about it in the form of spearheading an effort to donate an aged-out ASFD truck to a Third World country that could really use it.
“It’s been my desire to donate these things for awhile, but I was told nobody does that,” said Van Tienhoven, first elected to council months after receiving his 20-year medal with the local department in 2011. “I went online, started doing research, found a society in Illinois that had just taken a donated firetruck almost identical to what we have from Manitoba and sent to a city in Guatemala that I think has a couple of hundred thousand people, and no real firefighting equipment.”
The Armstrong Spallumcheen Fire Services Commission (ASFSC) approved the donation of a fire truck to be delivered to AMEDICAusa Inc, for use in the Republic of Guatemala.
“This donation will help provide greater fire protection to a developing country, potentially saving both lives and property,” said current Armstrong Spallumcheen fire chief Ian Cummings.
The truck, which is a 1990 Pierce Tele-Squirt Aerial fire apparatus, was replaced in 2019 due to the Fire Underwriter Survey age restrictions. As a result, the fire apparatus had minimal value in North America.
“The Pierce Tele-Squirt Aerial fire truck has served both of our communities well for many years,” said Armstrong Mayor Joe Cramer. “We are glad to see a country, such as Guatemala, greatly benefit from this donation.”
The truck, said Van Tienhoven, had less than 40,000 kilometres on it.
“To know that we can provide support to another community and region in another area of the world gives us great pride,” said the Mayor of Spallumcheen, Christine Fraser. “It’s a big job to be elected officials in two communities who are voted in to represent our residents and to know that this decision reflects how fortunate we are to live in an area of the world that we can be in a position to donate such integral infrastructure in another country is fantastic.”
Van Tienhoven would like to see changes made to the age restrictions of such fire vehicles.
“We (council) spent $1 million on a new truck, when we had one that still had 20-to-30 years of service left if well maintained,” he said. “What could that money have gone to? For infrastructure, for social programs, for everything, for the benefit of the community.”
The ASFSC is comprised of two council members each from the City of Armstrong and the Township of Spallumcheen, as well as the Chief Administrative Officers, Fire Chief and staff. Fire Services Commission meetings are open to the public and attendance is encouraged.
Van Tienhoven hopes the donation will spur on other communities to do the same thing. The society he found that helps with such issues is made up of retired firefighters that has the assistance of the U.S. military.
“It’s going somewhere where it’s going to be used,”he said. “Third World countries need all the help they can get.”
This story was updated Monday, May 15, at 10:40 a.m. with comments and information from Spallumcheen councillor Joe Van Tienhoven