This past Sunday two local firefighter paramedics from the Paso Robles City Fire Department, Charles Brown and Philip Magri, traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to donate safety equipment and teach firefighters from the Cabo San Lucas Volunteer Fire Department how to use it.
“We received a $220,000 grant about a year ago that paid for new self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA) for our department,” Brown said. “While the grant was extremely generous, it left us with extra equipment we could no longer use due to (United States) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.”
OSHA regulations require United States fire departments to periodically update and replace all of their equipment. Although often costly, those requirements are non-negotiable, of course, for good reason.
SCBAs are one of the most importance pieces of gear, Brown said. Flames, heat, smoke, toxic fumes and gases such as cyanide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde are extremely harmful and often life-threatening when inhaled. Considering that firefighters are often exposed to such dangerous substances, it is absolutely imperative their equipment be frequently inspected and fully functionally at all times.
After the grant 30 packs, 54 bottles, old uniforms and boots were left over, Brown said. While everything was still good, none of the equipment could be used here in the United States. Fire departments in Mexico however, do not adhere to the same regulations so the Paso Robles City Fire Department decided to donate all of its unusable equipment to a foreign department in need.
Brown, who happened to tour the Cabo San Lucas operation a few years ago, said the department depends solely on donations and while its members are well aware of the life-threatening health consequences, they usually operate with a bare minimum of equipment.
“It was unbelievable to see how little resources their government provides them with,” Brown said. “I was blown away. From what I saw, 70 firefighters had to share seven SCBA packs. Since they don’t have nearly as stringent of rules there, their departments will resort to practically anything. (Of course) going into a fire without protection is beyond dangerous, but I don’t think they have any other choice.”
The pair of local firefighters traveled south to train those departments in firefighter safety and survival, Brown said.
While it was unfortunate that the equipment could not benefit a domestic operation, firefighters and community members were glad to have the opportunity to lend a hand where they could.
“The resolution was approved by the Paso Robles City Council and the union and chief of the fire department administration,” Brown said. “The Paso Robles Professional Firefighter Association, a very active member in the community, also saw this as an opportunity to create positive relations internationally. We are very fortunate to have had all of their support.”
For any questions, contact Charles Brown at 310-592-2262.