Naugatuck among fire departments sending gear to Peru

Lt. Cesar Manuel Ramos Manrique of the Bomberos of British Fire Brigade Station 8 in Lima, Peru visits with Naugatuck firefighters on a recent visit to the department to appeal for donations of gear. Pictured, from left, Ethan Gagnon, Ryan Chapin, Manrique, Jason Salemme and Steve Sousa. -CONTRIBUTED

Fires are a big problem in Peru, even when the Amazon Rainforest isn’t a raging inferno. The fire departments there need to fight blazes in everything from modern skyscrapers in its capitol of Lima to peasant huts in rural villages. And they need to do it with few resources or government funding.

That’s why the Naugatuck Fire Department was among more than a dozen throughout the state that answered a call by the Stamford Fire Department to donate obsolete fire gear to the struggling Peruvian fire corps.

“We were told they were looking for gear because they were very short on gear,” Naugatuck Fire Chief Ellen Murray said. “We sent some turnout gear (the heavy jacket and pants firefighters wear into a fire), we donated some hose and we donated some old air pack brackets.”

The Stamford Fire Department led the effort at the suggestion of Willy Giraldo, a member of the Stamford Board of Representatives and a native of Peru.

Stamford Deputy Chief Matthew Palmer said Giraldo had read a news story about the Stamford department needing to upgrade its equipment, and asked if it would be willing to donate it to Peru.

Most fire departments have outdated equipment, he said. Even though they follow National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards requiring equipment of a certain age not be further used, he said, the older gear is kept either for training purposes, or even sentimental reasons.

Peru has no such regulations pertaining to fire gear, he said.

“They lack basic firefighting equipment and they don’t have a funding structure like emergency services do in the U.S.,” he said. “They rely mostly on some equipment that may be doled out by government; it’s very minimum. Most equipment they have comes from the U.S.”

Palmer said his department appealed to fire departments across the state, and more than a dozen responded by donating equipment, including the turnout gar, helmets, breathing apparatus, even hoses.

Assisting in the effort was Lt. Cesar Manuel Ramos Manrique, of the Bomberos of British Fire Brigade Station 8 in Lima, Peru, who visited fire departments throughout the state, including Naugatuck’s, appealing for the donations.

Palmer said so much equipment was donated he hopes it will all fit into a 40-foot shipping container he wants to send out within a couple weeks.

“There’s no shortage of equipment within the U.S. that may date out,” he said. “The challenge is getting it to Peru.”

The container will be placed on a ship that will embark from New York City, and could spend a couple months at sea, he said, accessing the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal. That, he said, is expensive.

Giraldo, he said, recently hosted a fundraiser to support the effort.

“The wonderful thing about working with Mr. Giraldo is he has a direct contact within the Peruvian consulate in New York City,” Palmer said. “It is critical that you have someone in government that can help facilitate this, and someone on the other side to receive it.”

Receiving the gear on the Peru side, he said, will be Manrique.

“Once it’s received, it can be properly dispersed to whatever stations are in most need,” Palmer said.