SOUTHCOM Donates Fire Fighting and Rescue Equipment to El Salvador

SOUTHCOM Donates Fire Fighting and Rescue Equipment to El Salvador

By Geraldine Cook
February 16, 2016

The Salvadoran Fire Corps received more than $400,000 from U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in equipment, tools, and accessories.

El Salvador’s Fire Corps (CBES, for its Spanish acronym) has received more than $400,000 from the U.S Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in equipment, tools, and modern accessories to put out fires and rescue victims of traffic accidents and hazardous substances spills.

“We thank SOUTHCOM for their cooperation and aid to this service agency, because this is the first time that we have received a significant number of totally new equipment, tools, and accessories,” said Fire Department Major José Joaquín Parada, CBES’s director, at the delivery ceremony on November 13th. The donation consists of 31 pieces of compressed air equipment used with a breathing system that protects firefighters from gas, smoke, and vapor while they battle blazes.

SOUTHCOM also donated protective equipment for 31 firefighters, including helmets, coats, boots, Nomex caps that protect the head and face from the heat of a fire, 351 protective gloves, and 12 hydraulic hoses.

“It is gratifying to be able to support an institution like the Fire Corps, which is committed and disciplined in its work, often risking their lives to protect the people of El Salvador,” said Colonel Robert A. Wagner, Senior Defense Official for the Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador. But the protective equipment is not the only gear SOUTHCOM provided to the CBES.

SOUTHCOM also donated six hydraulic cutting and expansion tools, which are indispensable for traffic accidents where people are trapped in a vehicle; cords to perform vertical rescues; and three multi-gas gauges that measure the level of hydrocarbons, oxygen, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfate at a site where hazardous materials are present.

“The population trusts the work we do – they trust our skills and abilities, Maj. Parada explained. “This donation is very important. This protective equipment and rescue tools provide the best possible service in any emergency.”

Arduous work

In 2015, the CBES responded to 3,181 emergencies including fires, traffic accidents, and destruction caused by swarms of bees. That year, there were 917 more emergencies than the agency handled in 2014. In addition to having firefighters with a high degree of training and skills, the CBES requires that its equipment be in excellent condition.

The CBES’s equipment is continuously deteriorating due to the nature of their work. For example, CBES responded to 42 fires related to the strong winds that swept through the country during the weekend of February 6th.

“We have been responding to an average of between 10 and 20 emergencies per day,” explained CBES Sergeant Douglas Rosales. “But this past weekend, we broke that record due to the strength of the winds. If we hadn’t had adequate equipment and [taken] precautions in our work, we would have run the risk of getting burned.”

During one fire on February 6th, 20 firefighters battled a blaze in the neighborhood of Lourdes – in the historical center of the municipality of San Salvador. An electrical short-circuit at a residence ignited the fire, which spread to at least five other homes.

“We are grateful to SOUTHCOM for their donation, since now we have protective equipment and new tools to respond to all emergencies,” Sergeant Rosales added.

The victims, between tears and hopelessness over the losses, thanked CBES for their quick response, which enabled some residents to salvage their homes. “In my house, only one room was damaged by smoke because the firefighters were able to put out the fire quickly,” said Eulalia Zepeda, a 70-year-old retired teacher. “If they hadn’t come, maybe I would have lost everything, like my neighbors whose six homes burned down.”