The Columbus Fire Department is collaborating with local nonprofit Centro Hispano in hopes of figuring out how to properly donate old personal protective equipment to a fire department in need in Mexico.
Columbus Fire Chief Ryan Gray, Assistant Chief Nathan Jones, Firefighter Aaron Perez and Centro Hispano Executive Director Karina Perez on Tuesday, April 4th, met with Consul Jorge Ernesto Espejel Montes and Coordinator of the Educational Orientation Window Socorro Carrera of the Mexican Consulate in Omaha to discuss the details of donating the equipment to the Bomberos Voluntarios lunches Zacapu in Michoacán, Mexico, the hometown of Firefighter Perez.
The unit is an all-volunteer force and has built its department literally from the ground up. Firefighters there routinely spend their own money to buy necessary equipment, according to Firefighter Perez, who added they also built their fire station with their personal funds.
“It’s nice to see the leadership in our department and City recognize that our community stretches far beyond the city limits, and for them to be willing to provide this much-needed equipment to a town that holds a special piece of my heart,” Firefighter Perez said.
Centro Hispano, which provides services in immigration, education and business primarily in Platte, Colfax, and Madison counties, is happy to once again be collaborating with the City of Columbus.
“One thing I really appreciate is the willingness of the fire department and the City to continuously work with Centro Hispano on projects that impact our community and highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion,” Centro Hispano Executive Director Karina Perez said.
With assistance from the Mexican Consulate, the fire department and Centro Hispano are hoping to complete the donation later this year. The personal protection equipment, or turnout gear, is designed to protect firefighters from flames, extreme temperatures and hazardous objects.
“With regulations surrounding the use of firefighting protective equipment here in the United States, we are routinely forced to destroy and dispose of equipment after 10 years,” Gray said. “This gear still has some life in it despite its age, and for us to be able to provide it to a group of selfless individuals in Mexico is a great opportunity for both sides.”
Mayor Jim Bulkley said he’s proud of the collaboration and of local leaders for finding various ways to help people of all backgrounds.
“We are a growing diverse community, and if we have a way to help and give back to where some of our citizens have come from, I think it’s awesome,” the mayor said.
To read the Spanish version of this story, click here.