A firefighter from Metro Vancouver will soon embark on a road trip to Nicaragua to deliver a decommissioned ambulance to first responders, a journey he hopes will spark a wider conversation about giving new life to used emergency equipment.
In about three weeks, Erik Vogel and his wife plan to hop into the donated ambulance, which is loaded with everything from scalpels to stretchers, and head for Central America.
"It's something we've always wanted to do. It's a bucket list item," Vogel said.
The couple is part of an ongoing campaign called Operation Nicaragua, which started in Kamloops and has been sending surplus and second-hand equipment south for years.
Vogel said the vehicles are desperately needed by emergency crews in Nicaragua and work perfectly well, despite having reached the regulated age limit for use at home.
"We should be sending so much more. There should literally be containers of this stuff going down there instead of the landfills," he said.
He acknowledged some people aren't comfortable with donating used equipment, but insisted a second-hand ambulance is still better than nothing – which is what some small town emergency crews in the poverty-stricken country currently have at their disposal.
"Some fire chiefs have said, 'If it's not enough for our guys, it's not good enough for theirs.' And I understand where [they're] going with that," Vogel said.
But having seen the conditions first-hand, he's convinced first responders in Nicaragua are better off with aged equipment than none at all.
"It's not like it's on its last breath when we're done with it," he said. "This is going to save lives."
Vogel said he'd like to see cities in the Lower Mainland get on board with donating old and used firefighting equipment; as it stands, he relies on personal connections to obtain donations and stores the equipment himself.
But in the meantime, Vogel and his wife aren't waiting around. They intend to start driving on Oct. 4, and will be following that up with another road trip in 2018. That time, they'll be behind the wheel of a fire truck.
"Every year we go down it's amazing to be there, they're so excited," Vogel said, standing beside the donated ambulance he’ll soon be driving roughly 7,000 kilometres. "We're really looking forward to handing over the keys and giving this a long life."
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber