Ill. town donates ambulance, SCBA equipment to Ecuador city
The donation was made in coordination with the International Fire Training Force, a Chicago nonprofit effort to aid overseas fire departments
By Mike Nolan
The Daily Southtown
TINLEY PARK, Ill. — Hazel Crest has donated an ambulance to a city in Ecuador with the help of a Chicago-based organization that has arranged for similar donations of firefighting equipment and training of firefighters overseas.
The 2009 ambulance came equipped with several self-contained breathing packs for firefighters as well as a stretcher, according to Hazel Crest fire Chief Tyrone Jarrett.
Lt. Col. Juan Carlos Ullauri Alvarez, fire chief for Naranjito, accepted the ambulance donation, which should arrive in Ecuador in a few weeks, according to Chicago Fire Department Lt. Patrick McDermott, chief executive of the International Fire Training Force.
"This is going to decrease their response times," McDermott said. "It will help in saving lives and property."
The International Fire Training Force has worked for some two decades to secure donations of equipment, including a dozen ambulances, to countries including Argentina, Ecuador, Ghana, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and Urkaine.
"I wouldn't say it's a missionary cause, but it's a purpose," McDermott said.
McDermott said his organization was working with another city in Ecuador on a donation when Alvarez learned about it and contacted him.
"It's not wealthy and they need training and they need equipment," McDermott said of Naranjito.
Jarrett said McDermott's organization is internationally renowned for work it has done to train firefighters in other countries.
The donation was approved by village officials, including Mayor Vernard Alsberry.
"McDermott has provided training to fire departments in South America in the past, and has built strong relationships in the region as a result," Jarrett said. "While engaging these countries, he has recognized the need for emergency response equipment."
McDermott said arranging a donation of surplus fire equipment can take as long as a year, but the Hazel Crest donation took about eight months.
He said his organization works with freight companies to send equipment overseas, and he expected Alvarez's city to receive the Hazel Crest ambulance in a little more than a month. The Hazel Crest ambulance is the first donation arranged through the organization by a south suburban fire department, McDermott said.
McDermott said there were discussions about donating the Hazel Crest ambulance to fire agencies in Jamaica or Ukraine, but the nonprofit's board found Naranjito "fitting for this donation."
International Fire Training Force was founded as a nonprofit in December 2003 and that year the Chicago Fire Department donated used firefighter self-contained breathing gear to Jamaica, according to the organization.
McDermott said he learned that firefighters in his native Jamaica were poorly trained and equipped, resulting in what he said was an unconscionable number of lives being lost on a daily basis.
Along with training firefighters in Jamaica, Fire Training Force has worked in Barbados, Ecuador and Mexico.
McDermott was awarded the Carter Harrison Award by the Chicago Fire Department, its highest honor, for rescuing three children, ages 2 to 5, from a burning building in Chicago in January 2000.
He was off duty at the time and on his way to a funeral home following the death of his grandmother, according to a Chicago Tribune report at the time.
McDermott saw smoke pouring from an apartment building and climbed six flights of stairs, knocking out windows to vent smoke to the outside and forcing open an apartment door when he heard "faint cries" of children inside, according to the Tribune story.
McDermott, stationed at O'Hare International Airport, said he plans to retire from the Fire Department in August after 30 years. He said Chicago is the only department he has worked for.
Retirement will allow him to devote more of his time to Fire Training Force, he said.
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