It’s been five years since the eastern Ontario retiree Carl Eggiman bought his Dominican Republic condo and four since he helped set up the first fire department in Punta Cana’s north.
Since then, Eggiman led the effort to provide seven underequipped fire departments with donated Canadian equipment. It involved more than 10 shipments, 3.6 tonnes and $1.25-million worth of gear — including two fire trucks — and $25,000 of Eggiman’s own money.
And now, Eggiman is setting his sights on equipping all 165 of the country’s fire departments, an initiative that can require up to 150 tonnes of additional shipments.
Eggiman, of Carrying Place, Ont., near Belleville, was a provincial police officer before he left in 2000 to manage his wife’s Tim Hortons franchise. As they neared retirement, the couple bought property in the Dominican Republic, and Eggiman learned of the lack of a fire department through the local Rotary club.
He then established the fire department together with the community, and that one initiative soon flourished into a long-term project to modernize the region’s fire departments.
Punta Cana fire chief Miguel Angel Alvarez says many of the region’s departments are wildly underequipped, with some lacking even a fire truck with a pump for putting out large fires.
Working with Dominican fire departments, Eggiman travels each year to Ontario to canvass the province’s fire departments for gear.
Even before getting involved with Firefighters Without Borders Canada, Eggiman managed to get 12 fire departments on board that were keen to repurpose their equipment.
After making contact, Firefighters Without Borders put Eggiman in touch with an 18-year-old volunteer firefighter from New Brunswick, who canvassed his province and contributed 50 boxes of gear, worth about $25,000, to Eggiman’s cause.
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