A Week of Training, A Year of Collaboration

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

LIMA, Peru — After almost a year of planning, firefighters in Peru were trained last month in advanced U.S. fire techniques in a program donated in the name of Mychal Judge, OFM, the New York Fire Department chaplain killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

The project was arranged by Christopher Dunn, OFM, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Lima, where he is one of the city’s fire chaplains, and Christopher Keenan, OFM, the New York City fire chaplain. The two friars collected donated materials and funding and sought out several passionate firefighters throughout the United States to teach their Peruvian colleagues.

Four firefighters from Florida, Oregon and New York, part of Mutual Aid Training Group LLC, spent Jan. 22 to 27 in Lima training the Peruvian firefighters. Several of the fire students said that this training was more than they had received in fire academy, according to Christopher Dunn, who arranged for the U.S. instructors’ lodging, meals and transportation.

The instructors provided basic training using air packs, engine operations, smoke, rescue/ladders, forced entry and live fire in Company 120. They also gave a brief review of high-rise firefighting for the 24th Division — Lima South. Three of the nightly training sessions were held in two large abandoned homes, roughly 30 minutes away from the station.

The Engine Mychal Judge donation also included two scholarships for one week of training at the New Hampshire Fire Academy this August.

The idea for the training evolved from a conversation between Chris Dunn and Chris Keenan at the Provincial Chapter in January 2011. At the time, the two friars discussed the pressing equipment needs of Lima’s Fire Company 120, said Christopher Dunn. “Chris Keenan hoped to get some equipment to me, including used gloves or helmets — things I could put in my duffle bags the next time I returned to Peru from the States.”

Chris Keenan did better than that. He arranged for a fire engine, or pumper, to be donated by the Dumont, N.J., fire department and shipped to Lima. “That was a really big difference from protective gear,” said Chris Dunn. The fire engine was dedicated last September at the Mychal Judge Walk of Remembrance in New York City, in which he participated. “The Dumont Fire Department had a memorial plaque painted on the engine with Mychal’s name before shipping it to Lima,” Chris Dunn said.

dunn-rSept. 11 Remembrance
Chris Dunn, who has been in Peru since 1981, said that New York Batallion Chief Dan Sheridan, a friend of Mychal, hopes to ship more equipment and supplies to third-world countries.

“As part of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Dan Sheridan hopes to ship one used fire apparatus to poor fire companies in the world in memory of each firefighter who died on Sept. 11. That would be a total of 343,” said Chris Dunn. “The first shipped was the memorial to Mychal Judge — MAQ Mychal Judge 120-03.”

Despite its age, the 1986 engine had extremely low mileage and was in top-notch condition, according to an entry titled “U.S. Firefighters Bring Message of Hope, Donate Training and Equipment to Lima Firefighters” on the Portland Fire and Rescue blog. “One of the Lima drivers pointed out that the older apparatus is preferable, given that they are able to work on them when a breakdown occurs. They said that with the newer apparatus being computer controlled, they don’t have anybody in the country who can fix them.”

The fire engine is in a secure U.S. Customs holding area while paperwork is completed, said Chris Dunn, who provided photos of the equipment and training.

“The pumper’s long journey from Dumont to New York City, then on to the Port of Callao in Lima, began in October,” according to a Jan. 18 story on NorthJersey.com. “The engine arrived just before Christmas.”

Firefighting and Fundraising
While he was in the United States last September, Chris Dunn obtained used protective gear and tools from fire departments in Utica, N.Y., and Oriskany, N.Y., that he took to Sheridan’s home last year after the reception of the Mychal Judge engine.

Chris Dunn said: “Company 120 did some extensive fundraising in October, November and December 2011 to cover the importation tax and set up costs for Engine Mychal Judge 120-03. Those costs are not included in the donation. The fundraising activities included selling T-shirts and door-to-door appeals.”

“This has been a big project with support from many fire companies in the States and many other individuals and institutions,” said Chris Dunn.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province