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Fired up for a trip to Guatemala

Fired up for a trip to Guatemala
Wellesley firefighters James Gingerich, Matt Karley, Tabitha Siegfried, Shannon Martin and Rich Hurren are getting ready to head to Guatemala next month to help train local fire departments and provide donated equipment.[Liz Bevan / The Observer]
Wellesley firefighters James Gingerich, Matt Karley, Tabitha Siegfried, Shannon Martin and Rich Hurren are getting ready to head to Guatemala next month to help train local fire departments and provide donated equipment. [Liz Bevan / The Observer]
Rural living in Guatemala is bound to be a somewhat different than it is here in Waterloo Region. Ditto for the firefighting services. Five Wellesley volunteers are about to find out just how different.

James Gingerich, Matt Karley, Tabitha Siegfried, Shannon Martin and Rich Hurren are gearing up to head down south with Firefighters Without Borders Canada and lend a helping hand, training firefighters in out-of-the-way areas of the Central American country.

“This is my first time doing this, but it is something that I am looking forward to,” said Gingerich, captain at the Linwood fire station, and a native of Guatemala. “(We are going to be sharing) techniques and just how to be able to respond better to their emergency situations, which are very similar to situations we are involved in here in Wellesley.”

Not only will they be taking with them their experience and knowledge as rural firefighters, the group is also bringing a shipping container full of equipment their Guatemalan counterparts may not have at their disposal.

“Hopefully (the container) will be leaving soon. It is ready to ship,” he said. “There is everything fire related in there. We have hoses, gear, hand tools, auto-extrication equipment, nozzles – things we use here.”

Before they set off, however, the Linwood fire station is hosting a fundraising night to raise money for the trip, and awareness of the Firefighters Without Borders Canada (FWBC) initiative. The evening event takes place on Feb. 19 and runs from 6-8 p.m.

“We are trying to make people aware of the organization and hoping to get a few donations for our trip,” said Gingerich. “This way, the community can be involved in our trip as well. We as firefighters are part of the community and if they know what we are doing to help others, they are willing to support us in other initiatives.”

The idea for the aid trip came from a meeting between (FWBC) and Gingerich, while the group was picking up donated equipment last fall. The plans fell into place from there.

Gingerich says that Wellesley firefighters are in a unique position to lend a helping hand with rural firefighters, who don’t have much in the way of equipment, and wear more than one work hat in putting to use their limited resources.

“Their calls would be more of what we deal with here in Wellesley. They wouldn’t do as much city work and in that aspect we are similar,” he said from the Linwood fire hall, adding that there were differences, however. “They do a lot of medical calls there. That is the difference between us and them – they are also paramedics. They are the only paramedics. They do what they can with what they have got.”

Martin is one of the five going on the weeklong trip that starts on Mar. 12, and she says it is natural for those with more to share with those who have less.

“I just hope that we can give them some of the knowledge that we have so they can advance their services and help the people to the best of their ability,” she said, sharing that firefighters across the world are part of a larger entity. “It is what we do. Firefighters are really a part of a larger community. We spread from Canada over to other countries because we can.”

Martin has been on mission trips before and couldn’t say no to the chance to go to Guatemala.

“I received an email from James asking to go on the trip with them and I said yes, obviously. You don’t pass up an opportunity like this,” she said, adding that the week-long training session is short, and sweet. “I just love helping out and spreading knowledge. It is never as long as you want to go for. You have to cram a bunch in a small period of time.”

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