Training the bomberos

Oak Bay firefighter heads for Peru to share experience

Oak Bay Firefighter John Ballantyne heads to Peru with Firefighters Without Borders Canada from March 1 to 20.

Oak Bay firefighter John Ballantyne looks forward immersing himself in Peruvian life while training the country’s volunteer fire service “and hopefully have a positive impact” as he deploys with Firefighters Without Boarders Canada.

“I’ve done a lot of travelling and have been to Peru before and wanted to go back and give back,” Ballantyne said. “This is a good thing to do with my skill set.”

Working with the CRD Hazmat team, Ballantyne learned of the organization and chatted with Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop. As someone who’s done repeated trips with Firefighters Without Borders Canada, Dunlop serves as team leader on this trip to train firefighters – bomberos – in Peru from March 1 to 20.

“Backpacking around … it’s different than living and working with them, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Ballantyne said.

Firefighters Without Borders Canada is a group of volunteer firefighters, professionals and civilians from all over Canada and the U.S. The registered non-profit offers support to emergency service organizations in countries with a demonstrated need by donating equipment and training.

The goal is to provide a “helping hand up” to these organizations.

This trip, a crew of 13 from Canada and the U.S. will head for Lima, Peru to start, then to Ilo, Arequipa and Cerro de Pasco for further training. “It’s basically training the fire service in Peru. They do very little training,” Ballantyne said.

Firefighters Without Borders Canada attempts to tailor training in areas most needed. They plan to do some incident command work this trip.

“It’s what they need and it’s certainly something I have experience in,” Ballantyne said.

The organization has at times filled shipping containers with equipment or donated fire trucks. Ballantyne expects his two pieces of luggage will hit capacity filled with personal training gear.

“Right now I’m soliciting old command boards,” Ballantyne said.

Boards are used to organize a scene, including firefighter safety and providing a co-ordinated approach for any type of incident. “Right now it sounds like all the trucks come in in a mish-mash, and firefighters do what we call ‘freelance,’” he said.

Learn more at fwbcanada.ca. Donations can be made through the Oak Bay Fire Fighter Charitable Foundation with cheques designated to Firefighters Without Borders Canada, at the fire hall, 1703 Monterey Ave. Tax receipts are available.