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Mission firefighter lends expertise in El Salvador

Capt. Norm MacLeod will be going to El Salvador with Firefighters Without Borders Canada. - Tim Fitzgerald photo
Capt. Norm MacLeod will be going to El Salvador with Firefighters Without Borders Canada.
— image credit: Tim Fitzgerald photo

The bond between firefighters extends well beyond the municipalities they serve.

The job itself requires one to be willing make the ultimate sacrifice — to lay your life on the line to save others. It's a commitment that requires more than just showing up for work.

For Capt. Norm MacLeod of Mission Fire/Rescue Service, that dedication hardly stops at the borders he patrols. MacLeod will be part of a team of Canadian first responders heading to El Salvador to continue their work helping underdeveloped countries improve their fire rescue capabilities.

"They do so much with so little down there," said MacLeod, who will leave for his 10-day mission on Feb. 14. "The will is there for sure. Unfortunately, it's a lack of equipment and training."

MacLeod has worked with Firefighters Without Borders Canada in the past, collecting used equipment that's no longer in service in Canada and putting it to use in countries in Central and South America. The Mission firefighter has travelled to Paraguay to help share his knowledge to the work of which he cares so passionately.

The timing of the trip comes on the heels of a tragedy in Brazil. The nation is in a state of mourning after 233 people were killed in a bar fire in the university town of Santa Maria. In a country where building codes are lax and equipment antiquated, the trip exemplifies the work that needs to be done.

MacLeod said while equipment and training are necessary for developing countries to improve their response time, in countries like Paraguay and El Salvador, economic restraints unfortunately force fire/rescue services to take a back seat to more pressing fiscal realities.

"It's a great experience to be able to go and share knowledge, and experience the culture of these communities," said MacLeod. "They have a real need to improve their training. They just don't have the resources."

He points to an incident while in Paraguay when firefighters responded to a car accident, yet didn't have tools to get the victims out of the wreckage. He said most of the counties rely on a volunteer, so as much help as he and his Canadian counterparts can offer, the better.

"All the people I've met are so friendly and accommodating, that's what makes me want to go back and help," he said.

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