By the end of the year, a community in Mexico will be making good use of a decommissioned Rocky View County (RVC) fire truck.
During a regular meeting March 26, council voted unanimously to donate a 1991 GMC fire truck to the Los Amigos Project, an initiative by the Rotary Club of Lethbridge Sunrise.
According to Fire Chief Randy Smith – a member of the Rotary Club of Airdrie – the club requested the donation of the fire truck, which was taken out of service in 2017 and has been stored at the County’s fleet yard since. The vehicle had no service value as a fire truck, Smith said, and would have been disposed of in 2019.
According to Karl Samuels, co-ordinator of the Los Amigos Project, approximately 40 vehicles – including fire trucks, ambulances, school buses and handi-buses – have been donated to Mexican communities since the project began in 2011.
“These vehicles, they’ve reached their life [span] over here in Canada, but they still have a lot of life in them,” he said.
Communities must meet certain requirements to receive the vehicles, Samuels said. After submitting an application, the communities must demonstrate they can properly maintain them, and they must show qualified individuals will be operating the vehicles. The vehicles also have to remain in use – if those requirements aren’t met, Samuels said, the vehicles are relocated to another deserving community.
“All the vehicles we’ve taken down in the past eight years are all still being used today,” he said.
The vehicles are donated by municipalities across Alberta. According to Smith, the vehicles undergo a mechanical safety check before leaving Canada, and a mechanic travels with the vehicles in case problems arise on the road.
Smith said the Los Amigos Project is funded through a number of Rotary Clubs in Alberta, as well as government grants, donations and sponsorships – the cost of delivering a single vehicle is about $8,000.
The Rotary Club of Airdrie will fund the transportation of the donated RVC truck, Smith told council. He added the Airdrie club previously purchased another out-of-service fire truck from RVC in 2017 for the Los Amigos Project.
Canadian Rotarians drive the donated vehicles as far as Mazatlan, where they are picked up by the recipients who make the trek to their final destinations in smaller Mexican communities, Samuels said.
This year, Rotarians will transfer two fire engines – one from Olds along with the truck donated by RVC – two handi-buses from Lethbridge, an ambulance from Pincher Creek and a school bus from Brooks. The convoy will embark on the 3,800-kilometre journey from Lethbridge to Mexico Oct. 17.
“These people are so appreciative that they’re getting these things,” Samuels said. “They look after them; they use them with pride.”
Samuels said the mandate of the Rotary Club is to lend a helping hand to people in need. The Los Amigos Project fulfills that goal, he said, by filling a gap in necessary services for less-fortunate communities.
“It makes people’s lives better,” he said.