Through U.S. Southern Command’s Humanitarian Assistance Program, the United States donated 96 AirHawk II self-contained breathing apparatus valued at $717,868.80, to re-equip El Salvador Fire Department (CBES, in Spanish), the U.S. Embassy told the press on June 25. The equipment will be distributed to 18 fire stations that do not have enough self-contained breathing equipment, a vital resource to respond to structural and industrial fires, Major Edwin Mauricio Chavarría, CBES general director, told Diálogo on July 18.
“We also use this equipment to respond to emergencies involving hazardous materials,” Maj. Chavarría said. “For example, when there is a traffic accident and there are pipes with propane gas or fuel […] with cracks due to impact and pollutants leak, or to carry out rescue maneuvers and help people.”
Maj. Chavarría added that the masks in this equipment have a hermetic seal around the face, with a compressed-air cylinder that provides oxygen for about 40 minutes, enabling firefighters to breathe without the risk of collapsing and losing consciousness during the fire due to polluting gases.
“In my 27 years of service to this institution, this is the first time that I put on brand-new equipment,” Second Lieutenant Carlos Carreño, CBES chief of operations, told Diálogo on July 18. “We use this equipment every day in fires […]; it’s been one of the best donations that we’ve ever had, from a country that has always supported us.”
One of the projects that will benefit the El Salvador Fire Department is the construction of a training tower, worth $704,000. Other initiatives include the acquisition of four oxygen-charging stations worth $300,000 and personal protective equipment for 250 structural firefighters, valued at $500,000, the U.S. Embassy added.