Old Westport fire engine finds new life in Dominican Republic

WESTPORT — With a fresh look and new decals, a refurbished 1995 Westport firetruck is ready to start quenching fires again. But this time, it’ll be doing so 1,500 miles away in the city of Salcedo, Dominican Republic.

“It’s helping out brothers in another country. Brothers and sisters,” Westport Fire Chief Robert Yost said.

The fire department sold its old Engine 8 last summer through govdeals.com, a website that lets individuals or groups bid on government surplus and unclaimed property including heavy equipment, cars, trucks, buses and airplanes. The Salcedo fire department won the bid, paying between $1,200 and $1,800 for the truck, according to Yost.

“They got a pretty good deal,” he said.

Westport firefighters packed the truck with extra hoses, and old jackets and pants as well.

“We also gave them some nozzles that we werent using anymore,” Yost said. “They are looking for more gear but they want smaller sizes than the typical American jackets and pants, so we’re going to see if we can help them out.”

An official dedication ceremony will take place March 9 in Salcedo, but the truck has already been put to good use.

Orlando Fernandez, a volunteer firefighter for both Salcedo and New Yory City, said foam from the truck was used to extinguish a blaze that erupted when a car crashed into a Salcedo home in January. Three lives were reportedly saved.

“They helped us get that truck, and even as a suprise they gave me a lot of stuff,” Fernandez said of the Westport Fire Department. “It’s amazing.”

Fernandez also organized the truck’s transfer from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic. In addition to being a volunteer with the Salcedo department for the past five years, Fernandez is a member of Grupo Los Nativos, which raises money for the fire department through carnivals and other events.

“Thank God they have that truck. ... I love to do this, to support the poor people. That’s the reason I go,” Fernandez said.

Salcedo fire chief Reynaldo Jose Guzman provided a list of additional items they need — including helmets, gloves, ladders and rescue saws — which Yost plans to share with other regional departments. Any donated items will be collected, brought to Westport and picked up by Fernandez in June to bring back to Salcedo.

“They have tremendous pride in the fire engine and have kept us up-to-date. We would love to help support and collect any items that they need,” Westport fire administrative assistant Jennifer Gallini Petrosinelli said. “... We love that the engine has a new chapter and career.”