Operation Nicaragua convoy set to depart Kamloops on 24th mission

By Jill Sperling
September 8, 2017 - 2:06pm Updated: September 8, 2017 - 3:08pm

KAMLOOPS — A team of firefighters, paramedics, and volunteers are preparing to embark on the 24th Operation Nicaragua. 

The initiative that sends decommissioned fire trucks, ambulances, and medical and hospital equipment to the poverty stricken country was started by the Kamloops Firefighters in 2009.

"Nicaragua is the second poorest country in basically the Northern Hemisphere behind Haiti, so we definitely saw a need," said Operation Nicaragua Director David Sakaki.

Sakaki is leading a team of nine people on the trip, which will help some of the most desperate fire departments in the country. 

"What we're presenting the departments with are gifts they would never be able to afford on their own," Sakaki said. "When these trucks arrive at their destinations, the cities that we're bringing them to they will actually shut down the downtown, they will turn on the lights and sirens on these trucks and parade them for everybody in the community to see."

On Sunday the convoy of vehicles will depart Kamloops, beginning the long journey to Atlanta, GA where they will be loaded into military transport aircraft and flown to Nicaragua. 

"We are going to be flying the trucks down probably the end of next month, and as soon as we get our shipping date we're going to fly down and meet the aircraft to unload the firetrucks down there," Sakaki said. 

"We'll probably be spending a couple of weeks down there getting the fire trucks into service and touring some of the cities."

Hospitals, fire departments, and police detatchments from across Canada and the U.S. have generously donated their outdated equipment and vehicles. 

Everything being shipped to Nicaragua is in excellent working condition, but no longer authorized for use here. 

"It just seems to kind of all fall into place," Sakaki said. "One fire department hears about what we're doing, they give us a call and say, 'we've got a fire truck that needs to go down there,' and we'll send it down, and then a few more departments hear about it, and it's just an ongoing event."

Sakaki says the Kamloops Firefighters have committed to sending at least 33 fire trucks to the struggling nation, and with the upcoming shipment, they're about halfway to meeting that goal. 

The public is invited to a send-off party for the Operation Nicaragua team at Match Eatery at 3 p.m. Saturday (Sep. 9).

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