The Delta Optimist published news of the Fire Engines for El Salvador project in the Saturday, January 19, 2008 edition:

Longtime Ladner resident and retired executive Ralph Towsley feels proud and satisfied a network he helped create saves lives each year.

Shipping three decommissioned and refurbished Vancouver fire engines to El Salvador is the latest milestone achieved by the Rotary World Help Network Towsley created with other Rotarians.

After four years of effort to secure the approvals and raise the money, this donation will be a valuable contribution to the ongoing emergency response and alert programs put in place for the people of El Salvador.

"We put the network together so our communities could extend a hand to help Third World communities. I am pleased that both Tsawwassen Rotarians and the North Delta Rotary Club are joining the effort to bring fire safety to El Salvador," said Towsley.

The idea to give emerging countries decommissioned fire engines replaced by new equipment was sparked by Vancouver firefighter Brian Hutchinson. He received support from other firefighters and headed the Vancouver Firefighters' Charitable Society committee that was responsible for making the ambitious project happen.

Over the past decade, Vancouver Fire and Rescue has developed a relationship with the National Fire Service of El Salvador and had previously shipped protective clothing and minor equipment.

After convincing Vancouver council to grant approval, Hutchinson arranged to refurbish the old but dependable equipment. Then he had to find a way to move the three trucks from Vancouver to El Salvador.

When he learned of Towsley's network he saw the possibility of a partner.

The network includes over 40 Metro Vancouver Rotary Clubs that co-operate to ship surplus but still useful health and educational supplies and equipment to Third World communities. Since being created in 1992, the Rotary World Help Network has combined the effort of B.C. Rotary clubs to pack more than $20 million of equipment in containers distributed to all parts of the world.

The call for help shipping the fire engines got a positive response from the Tsawwassen Rotary Club, which was joined by North Delta and nine others, each contributing $2,500.

"From Tsawwassen and North Delta to Whistler it's come together as a partnership that we've managed to build with the Rotary clubs," said Hutchinson.

This week, with all the elements finally in place, Vancouver council, fire chief Ray Holdgate and representatives from 11 Metro Vancouver Rotary clubs gathered at Vancouver City Hall for the formal ceremony presenting the fire engines to El Salvador Consulate General Rosa Elena Moreno.

"Rotarians get involved in many local community projects and this is a typical international project when we partner with other participants to build a better world," said Rotary Club of Tsawwassen president Orv Nickel.

"We are so grateful for the tremendous public support our local, youth and international projects get from our communities."

© The Delta Optimist 2008