Norfolk Engine

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Norfolk’s Engine 60 will ‘retire’ to a Caribbean island



NORFOLK — Volunteer fire­men are preparing to dispatch a well-loved engine to answer a call for help 1,930 miles away.

Affectionately known as the “senior bus” because it is often driven by the department’s more seasoned members, En­gine 60 is about to get a new lease on life on the Caribbean island of Roatan, located off the northern coast of Honduras.

Norfolk EngineThe department will take de­livery in July of a brand-new re­placement for the 33-year-old Oren engine tank that has logged 26,500 miles on area roads. Engine 60 (there’s a 6 on the truck, but the department multiplies such numbers by 10 for radio purposes), is still cer­tified and fully operational. It is scheduled for replacement on a 30-year cycle that the local de­partment has long maintain ed, and there is little market for ap­paratus of this vintage.

The engine might have wound up on the scrap heap but for the International Fire Relief Mission.

The nonprofit organization was founded in 2007 by Ron Gruening and Mark Allen, re­tired paramedics living in Lind­strom, Minn., who noticed in their vacation travels to remote corners of the world many fire departments that were forced to work with badly outdated or nonexistent equipment.

Gruening said the operation started small, collecting used protective gear and equipment for distribution overseas. The mission has quickly grown, with agencies, businesses and fire companies around the country banding together to help.

What began with a few items stored in their local church is now a $300,000-a-year opera­tion staffed by about a dozen volunteers who have coordinat­ed operations in Ukraine, Bo­livia, Peru, New Guinea, and now Roatan, where a retired Florida firefighter is helping in­habitants establish a fire and ambulance service on the island that has caught on as a cruise ship destination.

“It’s making a difference in many communities,” Gruening said, adding the organization’s rapid growth caught everyone by surprise. “We never set out to grow or be big. We never set out to reinvent the wheel. What has surprised me is how quick­ly our message has been found.”

John Barbagallo, spokesman for the Norfolk department, said Engine 60 has been metic­ulously maintained, but its age makes it a tough sell. “Even on eBay,” he said.

Volunteers here raised $100,000 in donations to help offset the new engine’s $565,000 price, with the balance covered by the town, which sets aside money each year to pur­chase new equipment.

Selectmen have approved the donation of Engine 60, and the department is working to find a trucking company willing to bring Engine 60 as far as New Jersey, where it will be picked up by IFRM for the trip to the Port of Miami.

A shipping container packed with protective equipment and other necessities will also be shipped to the fledgling depart­ment in Honduras, and Gruening hopes that members of the local department will be able to follow the engine south in No­vember to help train its

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