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Canadian firefighters share skills in Nicaragua

In November, Canadian volunteers helped train and equip 36 bomberos (Spanish for firefighters) from four cities in Nicaragua.

The 11-member team was part of a capacity building operation (CBO) – a volunteer project that is taken to developing countries all over the world through the Canadian charity GlobalFire.

All donations to GlobalFire go directly to those in need – nothing goes to salaries or member expenses. Each operation is completely free to the recipients.

This year GlobalFire provided an intensive six-day training program covering current firefighting topics that are beyond what is found in the basic textbooks. The training is relevant to fire fighting in Nicaragua, which is often quite different than in Canada.

Prior to the training, the team surveyed the Nicaraguan stations and equipment to determine their exact needs, and donated surplus equipment and proper training in its use and maintenance. The team also put two out-of-service vehicles back on the road and installed a breathing-air compressor.

Mark Matheson is the GlobalFire Alberta co-ordinator and was one of the six firefighters who took part in the Nicaragua operation. He said in an email that he is full of admiration and respect for his fellow firefighters in the developing world.

"Their dedication and professionalism towards their communities often rivals ours here in Canada," he said in an email. "The Nicaraguan bomberos run the same kinds of calls we do except they severely lack the resources we have."

Matheson, a 23-year full-time firefighter in Alberta and 18-year advanced-care paramedic, has been part of GlobalFire since 2012 and has been deployed twice before to the Philippines, once on a CBO and again on a disaster response following typhoon Haiyan.

"I would encourage everyone to take part in similar international causes," he said, "as the impact you can make is huge, and the impact on you is huge."

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February 3, 2016 
By Maria Church

A Canadian GlobalFire volunteer supervises as Nicaraguan firefighters learn door-control tactics during a capacity building operation in November.

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