Bumpy road for Alberta trio delivering fire truck to Mexican community

Bumpy road for Edmonton trio delivering fire truck to Mexican community
WATCH ABOVE: Three Edmontonians are headed to a Mexican community near Cancun to deliver an important piece of equipment. But as Quinn Ohler explains, trying to help a local fire department in Mexico has seen them hit a few bumps on the road.

A donated fire truck — driven by three Edmonton men — that is destined for the Puerto Morelos Fire Department in Mexico, is currently stuck at the U.S. border because of red tape.

The paperwork they need to cross over the border, duty-free, hasn’t been approved.

“We gave [Puerto Morelos] the information to start to paperwork,” Chris Hardeman said on Wednesday. “Part of the project that isn’t in our hands hasn’t been going as well.”

Hardeman, along with Brad Volovich and Roger Poon, left Edmonton on Jan. 3 to deliver the truck, along with monetary donations and equipment for the under-supplied fire department there.

The trio in Edmonton right before they took off on the trip.
The trio in Edmonton right before they took off on the trip. Supplied

Puerto Morelos split with Cancun recently to became its own municipality.

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“Cancun owned everything so they took the police cars, the fire service — everything — with them,” said Volovich, who owns a home in the area. “All they had left was an old half-ton truck with a small tank of water on the back and a pull-start motor.”

“They have nothing,” Hardeman added.

Volovich contacted Hardeman, a retired Edmonton firefighter, to help. Hardeman used his contacts and Edmonton Fire Rescue Services donated one of its out-of-commission rigs. They started fundraising and collecting donations of equipment, and by January they were ready for the trip.

Donated bunker gear, being sorted for the trip south.
Donated bunker gear, being sorted for the trip south. Supplied

The trip was going as planned. A stop in Lethbridge even resulted in a fire crew there “spitshining” the truck.

The goal was to stop in a suburb outside of Denver to pick up more donations of fire gear. They took two little girls who had helped them load up the gear on a quick ride in the fire truck.

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“I took them for a ride around the block and shut off the truck and it wouldn’t start,” Hardeman said.

“We had no idea what we were going to do,” Volovich added.

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The South Metro Fire Department got wind of the story and stepped in to help.

READ MORE: Alberta firefighter donations could save lives in Ukraine

They were able to get the truck started long enough to get it into one of the South Metro fire halls, where a mechanic found an issue with one of the solenoids in the engine.

“They went off and bought us a new one, wouldn’t let us pay for it, installed it and the truck fired up and away we went,” Hardeman said. “It was awesome!”

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The fix only lasted a day-and-a-half. After stopping on the side of the road, the truck wouldn’t start again.

This time it was a firefighter from Stonewall, Texas that offered up his services. He recruited a friend who is a heavy-duty mechanic and then bought and replaced the part, again, free of charge for the group.

READ MORE: Donated High River fire department gear to help Chilean firefighters

Now the truck is fixed and because the paperwork hasn’t arrived, the same firefighter offered to store the truck until it’s ready to go.

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“The three of us have family in Cancun, so we decided to fly out,” said Hardeman, who added that when the paperwork comes in, they’ll fly back, pick up the truck and travel the rest of the way.

However, if they don’t get the paperwork by the end of January, they’ll have to bring the truck back to Canada because of U.S. regulations. They would then have to apply to take the truck through the United States again, and then complete the journey through Mexico.

Once the truck is there, Hardeman plans on spending 10 days with crews in the region, teaching them how to use the truck and proper firefighting techniques.

“These guys were given these jobs and they have zero training,” he said. “It’s that brotherhood, to get these guys to be able to do the job they’re getting paid to do.”

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He said it’s what makes him so passionate about the cause, along with encouraging messages and support they’ve received along the way.

“You read all of this bad news and see all this bad news, and there’s a whole different side out there,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”