Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Area Firefighters take Fire Truck to Africa

Area Firefighters take Fire Truck to Africa in 2014

Submitted by Bob McCurdy 

After two years, a group of Indianola and Norwalk Firefighters including Mark McCurdy of Russell, returned to Zambia, Africa to deliver a fire truck on a promise made in 2012. The fire truck was found in Alaska and made its way to Indianola. There it was updated with equipment for the truck and for the fire fighters. Many Iowa fire departments donated surplus items. The State of Iowa found several copies of fire prevention training books used in teaching the elementary students in Iowa. 

This trip is a follow-up to the 2012 visit to help the village of Katete, Zambia. This project had two major parts with this mission. One was to get the fire truck to the village and get the Iowa group of firefighters to the same spot in Lusaka, Zambia. 

To retrieve the truck, starting in Indianola the fire truck had to be transported to a shipping line. With the help of the Des Moines Truck Brokers and Luett Farms, the fire truck was taken to Jacksonville, Florida to be placed on a cargo ship to leave on April 14, 2014 to Walris Bay, Namibia on the west coast of Africa. This was helped by Worldwide Export. The next step was to get the truck to Lusaka, Zambia which is the capitol city. 

To begin their long journey the group of firemen took vehicles to Chicago to depart by plane to Washington DC, Johannesburg, South Africa and then to Lusaka, Zambia.

At Lusaka there is an airport where the firemen could meet up with the fire truck. In Lusaka the Zambia Officials welcomed both the fire truck and the firemen and sent them on the final leg of the journey to the village of Katete with the fire truck and two other vehicles.

On the trip to Katete the fire truck ran out of gas at one-thirty in the morning. The group was lucky to have more than one vehicle, one of which went ahead on a dirt road. A half hour up the road they found an African gas pump out in the open and not near any village. It was made up of a gas pump and a pole for a light, nothing else.

Once the fire truck was fueled, they continued on to Katete where they were to meet with the village manager and the mayor. The village leaders were proud to show off the new fire station that they had erected. This was a surprise and was an act faith between the two cultures that were involved. Many times in the past, foreigners had made promises to people in Africa that never happened. Also the people of the village and the nearby community showed how well they appreciated the help provided two years before. 

In the nearby village was the Saint Francis Hospital that the team visited and inspected two years ago. During the 2014 inspection they found that many of the fire safety suggestions had been acted upon, which made for a safer environment for the hospital of 350 beds that served 200,000 people with referrals from the whole Eastern Province of Zambia.

During the next week the group split up into two groups, one group taught the Katete fire fighters how the fire truck worked and helped with their training activities. The other group worked with the youngsters in schools to teach fire safety. STOP-DROP-ROLL was a part of the program and the young people enjoyed all of materials from Iowa schools that help them with fire safety.

Before the return trip the group did a re-inspection of fire safety procedures at the Hospital.

The official Hand-off Ceremony was held with Governor of The Eastern Province of Zambia, District Fire Secretary, the village manager, the mayor, and the community was in attendance to receive their new fire truck. There they held a demonstration of how the old fire truck worked and then how well the fire truck that Iowa fire fighters had just presented to Katete.

The Ministry in the capitol of Lusaka, on the way home, also invited the Iowa group back to help them in the future.

Mark has pictures and is willing to talk to groups when available. Contact him at 641-535-4302.

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