About a year ago, officials from the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue received a plea from the
Jose Cruz, a Jersey City fire captain and the president for the Hispanic Society, reached out to the NHRFR with an interesting request.
"Jose said that he had family back in the Dominican Republic and found out that there was a town there that had absolutely no fire equipment," said Jeff Welz, the co-director for the NHRFR. "I mean, they had absolutely nothing. Since we had regionalized, we had found some gear that had become obsolete. So Jose asked if we had any equipment that we could donate to their cause. Anything we could give them would be better than what they had, which was nothing."
Tenares, in the Dominican Republic, is a very small community where the residents try their best to fight fires on their own. It's usually a futile attempt because of the lack of quality equipment.
"We found some gear that was not being used by the regional," Welz said. "We were told that they were going to be able to put the equipment to use."
Co-director Michael Deorio said that it took about two or three months to collect the equipment and sort out what could be useful to the Dominican fire department.
"We found helmets, boots, fire jackets, Turnout coats and pants, some old breathing masks," Deorio said. "We were happy that they were going to go to good use."
Welz said that the NHRFR also found Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus devices, also known as Scott Packs, which could be useful to the firefighters of Tenares. The Jersey City Fire Department, where Cruz works, also chipped in and donated two Scott Packs for the cause.
"What we take for granted here is far reaching for them," said Cruz.
The Hispanic Society collected the equipment and shipped it to the Dominican Republic.
Recently, Vincent Reinoso, the captain of the Tenares Fire Department, paid a visit to the NHRFR to show his appreciation. Reinoso presented a Tenares firefighter's helmet to the NHRFR officials and presented plaques of appreciation to Deorio, Welz and Cruz for their efforts.
"We try to do all we can to help another firefighter, even in another country such as the Dominican Republic," Welz said. "No matter what language they speak, firefighters are all the same. We bonded right away. It shows that we all have the same purpose, to save lives. It meant so much to them that they came up here on their own and took the time to say thank you. It was really rewarding."
While visiting, Reinoso told the NHRFR officials that the donated equipment already had its benefits. The Tenares fire department used the equipment while fighting a Christmas fire and two young lives were saved.
"It always feels good when we're able to save lives," Welz said. "Even if it is in another country. I never knew it would mean so much, but the fire captain said that the equipment was the reason why they were able to save those two small children from a burning house. Without the equipment, they would have never been able to enter the burning home. It was quite a refreshing experience and definitely a touching one."
"If they didn't have the breathing tanks to fight the fire, those kids would have perished," added Cruz.
Reinoso expressed his gratitude.
"Everybody is praying for this organization," he said.
Deorio said that plans are in the making to continue to donate equipment.
"In the future, any time we have equipment that we might see as obsolete, we're going to make calls to the people in the Dominican Republic," Deorio said. "And we're open to other organizations as well. We're going to keep in contact and make it an ongoing program. We also may reach out to other communities, to see if they are willing to donate."
As a follow-up to the donation, Cruz, NHRFR firefighter Rafael Peralta and other representatives from the Hispanic Firefighters and EMS Society will travel to Tenares in April to give equipment training to the Dominican firefighters.
"It really is a good feeling that the equipment went to good use and it went to save lives," Deorio said. "That doesn't happen very often."
Any communities or individuals wishing to make equipment or monetary donations may call (908) 351-8995. All donations are tax deductible.
Read more: Hudson Reporter - A chance to give back Regional donates equipment to Dominican fire department.