Penn. Firefighters Donate Equipment to Dominican Republic Fire Department
Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.
Jan. 20—Firefighters from Northeast Pennsylvania are helping their counterparts in the Dominican Republic.
A drive organized by Hazleton firefighters collected used equipment from companies in the region.
They gathered 40 suits of turnout gear, ladders, air packs and other supplies that Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat said nearly filled a shipping container.
Victor Perez of the Dominican House in Hazleton traveled with the shipment to Santo Domingo, the capital city, and met with firefighters and other officials who received the used equipment.
"For us it's new," Perez said. "We have to say thank you to the mayor and the fire department of the city of Hazleton."
Hazleton Deputy Fire Chief Brian Mandak said Hazle Twp. firefighters donated turnout gear after receiving grants to buy new suits. Sheppton-Oneida volunteers will provide breathing equipment. Firefighters in Old Forge gave equipment. In Kunkle, the fire company gathered gear from neighboring companies and Hazleton firefighters helped load the gifts onto a truck for shipment.
In addition to donating firefighters' gear, Hazleton also sold a 1992 fire truck to the province of San Jose de Ocoa in the Dominican Republic this year.
"One municipality purchased our old engine. It's great that it's not going to sit here," Cusat said.
The exchanges continue a relationship that has developed between fire companies in the Dominican Republic and Hazleton, where many volunteer firefighters are Latino.
In 2011, two Hazleton firefighters visited San Jose de Ocoa to offer training after a fire there destroyed two homes.
While visiting, firefighter Jose Melo, originally from Ocoa, and Deputy Chief Shawn Jones realized that the firefighters needed equipment as well as training.
They organized a drive that collected equipment such as hose, nozzles and a pumper truck, which the company needed in Ocoa.
"They had nothing. They had an old engine that didn't work. The pump was bad on it. They didn't have any gear," Mandak said.
Because the donated gear has been taken out of service and the fire companies in the Dominican Republic pay for shipping, the donations cost Hazleton nothing, Mandak said.
Mandak has made trips with Jones and Brian Bloom of the Kingston Fire Company to Ocoa to train firefighters and repair equipment. Four firefighters from the Dominican Republic also trained in Hazleton.
In Hazleton, the mayor, too, completed fire training last year through the Diamond Fire Company, which he joined as a volunteer after taking office in 2016.
"I understand the equipment more (and) why we have a certain number of members to car accidents, the minor stuff—why we need so many people," Cusat said.
He aspires to complete more training to earn a certificate as a firefighter 1 because gaining that status also helps the city.
If fire companies like Diamond have a certain number of members with that certification, they can receive the maximum grant of $15,000 from the state fire commissioner. Companies use the money for equipment, training and fire house maintenance and to repay debt.