A former Langley Township aerial fire truck is now an operational piece of emergency equipment in Cebu, Philippines.
Assistant fire chief Pat Walker recently returned from the populated island province, using two weeks of his holidays to train the volunteer fire brigade on how to use the large truck and aerial equipment.
“This is the only operational aerial truck they have there in Cebu,” said Walker.
“That is quite surprising, considering how many 50-storey highrises they have in their city.”
Walker said the entire experience was both humbling and eye-opening, and made him appreciate even more the ‘Cadillac’ emergency services, equipment and training that exists in Canada.
“In a city with the same square miles as the Township, they have a population of about 1.3 million people compared to our 113,000.
“The firefighters I trained are all volunteer and there are about 40 of them,” he said.
The aerial truck was purchased by the Township in 1989 and went into the brand new Walnut Grove fire hall.
“The fire truck has a service life of 25 years and that one was rebuilt to get another five years out of it. But the cost of the next rebuild was not worth it for resale,” said Walker.
“We attempted to sell it, but the truck had no market even though it was a really good truck in excellent running condition.”
So the Township mayor and fire chief of Langley decided to donate it to Firefighters Without Borders, a group which counts Walker among its members.
With the full financial support of Rotary International, the truck was shipped to the Philippines, arriving to Cebu in late February.
“The fire brigade there got the truck and were so pleased with it. But it is technical and they wanted to know aerial tactics and how to service it properly to make sure it has a long life,” Walker said.
The Cebu Filipino-Chinese Volunteers Fire Brigade is made up of businessmen who have made a commitment to give back to their community.
Walker heard that other fire departments in surrounding areas charge fees to fight fires.
Most fires the brigade is called to are in the shanty towns.
Another member of Firefighters without Borders was also in the Philippines to teach highrise firefighting tactics, said Walker.
Vancouver fire captain Bob Dubbert provided that training. The city of White Rock had previously donated a pumper truck.
During his stay in Cebu, Walker said he noticed no more than four fire hydrants.
He was told that of those, not all are working.
Some are shut off so the water isn’t stolen.
Walker said the volunteer-run brigade was well organized and the men were gracious and kind.
They kept the ‘Township of Langley’ signage on the truck and have asked Walker to come back next February for more training and assessments.