Local firefighters assist Ecuadorians

Barbara Lawlor
Peak to PeakNederland firefighters gear

Dave Hitchcock is a big man with a big heart who was always top of the list for volunteering for his community, especially if it involved the Timberline Fire Protection District. At the chili dinner fundraisers he was always the greeter and the one who could cajole residents into donating for a good cause.
He had this boyish smile that made people dig deep into their pockets. Once again, Hitchcock is asking for help, but this time it is for firefighters thousands of miles away from Gilpin County.
For 12 years, Hitchcock served his community as a volunteer firefighter, becoming a station lieutenant and a training officer. He was also named the Firefighter of the Year at an awards dinner. Last year, Hitchcock moved to San Clemente, Manabi, Equador, to help his mother move to a new retirement beach home, and, as usual, he ended up becoming involved with the local fire department.
When he became aware of the many needs of the small department, Hitchcock turned to his friends and mentors at the Timberline district to join him in gathering bunker gear and sending it to the Equadorian fire department. His request for used bunker gear spread to the Nederland Fire Protection District, which also came up with the gear that is so necessary to safety when fighting a fire.
These bunker gear donations will be a great asset to the San Clemente department. Now all that Hitchcock has to do is get them sent. Bunker gear is heavy, and the cost of shipping was prohibitive, so Hitchcock and his old buddies at Timberline decided to go public with their need and ask for monetary donations to pay the postal fees.
There is no better time to hit up the public for money than at the annual Gilpin County Fair this weekend, Aug. 17 and 18. Timberline will have a booth and a jar ready to be filled.
Hitchcock is originally from Louisville, Kentucky, and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. He most recently worked as the Ameristar Casino warehouse manager.
He has always loved an adventure and when his mom asked him to join her, he was up for it. Within days of his arrival he became involved with the San Clemente Fire Department, and it was soon apparent that the firefighters had little or no equipment. “They work and train to the best they can,” said Hitchcock, “but they are in need of basic equipment.”
Timberline and Nederland fire departments had used bunker gear which they decided would be welcomed by the San Clemente department, by the South American Bomberos.
TFPD Chief Chris Jennings and NFPD Captain Ryan Roberts assembled five sets of pants, suspenders, gloves, jackets hoods and helmets to be sent to San Clemente. TFPD firefighter Chip Smith said: “It is a long-standing tradition in the fire services to assist with donations to other departments. Normally, the departments to be assisted are fairly close, but this donation needs to get to South America. The fire service brotherhood and sisterhood extends worldwide, and Gilpin and Boulder counties will send a small shipment that will have a large impact.”
Since Hitchcock joined the department he has been sending blogs describing his days on the small beach community department. On July 28, he wrote: “Yesterday, I hopped on the fire truck here in San Clemente for a fire call and while in the truck I looked down and laughed when I realized I was wearing flip flops on a fire call. We went emergent down the beach road, not knowing what the call was.
“I figured it was a medical call of some form. We got to where there were two guys pointing us toward the beach and it turns out the injured party was a pelican. Man, I had no idea how big those things are. Each wing had to be at least three feet across, plus its body size. It must have had a wingspan of seven feet.”
The firefighters threw a bunker jacket over the pelican, tied its beak closed, put him on top of the fire truck and drove him to a police station where they tied a rope to the bird’s foot and a tree. Hitchcock said the police were stunned when the firefighters showed up at their door with a pelican.
The police were convinced to take the pelican to an animal rescue center. This rescue was a far cry from what Hitchcock experienced on the Timberline department.
The bunker gear that will be sent from local departments will probably serve a different capacity than as a pelican capturing tool, but first the money for the shipping cost has to come. Timberline will have a booth at the fair where donations may be made.
To keep up with life on an Ecuadorian fire department, read Hitchcock’s blog at http://figuringitoutinecuador.wordpress.com for more firefighting stories.