Old KP fire trucks to get new life in Guatemala

Rodika Tollefson, KP News

For the Key Peninsula’s Fire District 16, they were old hand-me-downs at bargain prices that lately have cost much more to fix than they cost to buy. They broke down in the middle of emergency responses and often spent more days in the shop than on the road. But the two old fire engines that have caused many headaches for local firefighters are about to cause a lot of joy, and help save many lives.

The two engines, no longer needed thanks to voters who approved levies for new ones, will soon head for Guatemala—a country that until not long ago used doors as stretchers and pickup trucks as ambulances.

The district’s board recently approved the donation of the two trucks — welcome news for Key Pen resident Ron Quinsey, a paramedic with the Lakewood fire department and a state EMT instructor. Quinsey, with the help of various fire departments and other groups, has been helping Guatemalan firefighters, known as bomberos, for several years with training and equipment.

“When we passed the bond, I called up the fire chief,” Quinsey said. “They will be given new life down there because for so long they have learned to deal with having nothing.”

The fire engines will be filled with various goodies for the Guatemalan team that is expected to arrive here in June and likely will drive the trucks all the way back. When word spread about the mission, all sorts of donations and contributions rolled in from Peninsula and beyond, FD 16 Chief Eric Livingood Nelsen said. The bomberos will take home defibrillators, medical supplies, emergency airway kits, radios and even memorabilia.

“Six years ago when I first got involved, patients were picked up off the street, tossed into the back of a pickup truck and delivered to a doctor without any first aid,” Quinsey said. “Now they have enclosed ambulances with defibrillators and airway kits, even the first-line support equipment used in medic units today.”

Education is valued even more, said Quinsey, who takes two weeks every year to conduct training in Guatemala.

“My belief is that the citizens of the Key Peninsula are very fortunate that they have such a good quality fire department, and to know their equipment will be donated to save lives is such a hallmark of the citizens’ spirit…What little life these apparatus have in them will be used to save lives somewhere else.”

Although the original plan was to drive the trucks back to Guatemala, Quinsey said the current gasoline prices are making that a very expensive proposition, and he is trying to find alternative ways.

Anyone who would like to help or find out more about these missions may contact Quinsey at 253-370-2401 or by email at rquinsey@lakewoodfire.org. -