The citizens of Eldoret, Kenya, celebrate the January arrival of their fire truck with a parade. The truck was a gift from sister city Minneapolis. Credit: provided by International Leadership Institute

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Retired Mpls. firetruck lands in Kenya

  • Article by: IAN LARSON
  • Star Tribune
  • February 14, 2010 - 10:38 PM

A retired Minneapolis firetruck is once again ready to put out blazes -- 8,000 miles away in the highlands of Kenya.

The truck was recently shipped to Minneapolis' sister city, Eldoret, a city of 220,000 in western Kenya, after more than a year of coordination between the cities and a Minneapolis nonprofit.

But even with the 22-year-old, 500-gallon pumper truck, Eldoret's fire department is still ill-equipped, said LaJune Lange, president of the International Leadership Institute, the group that organized the donation.

"They don't have a modern sewer and plumbing system," Lange said. "Basically, if a fire breaks out, they're [limited to a] garden hose and buckets."

That's why the Minneapolis Fire Department is rounding up other decommissioned gear, such as fire hoses and firefighting suits, to send to Eldoret.

"They really have very little to no fire suppression at all," Assistant Fire Chief John Fruetel said. "There's not a fire hydrant on every corner like we have here."

The institute is raising money to send that gear and a handful of Minneapolis firefighters to Eldoret to teach the Kenyans modern firefighting techniques.

"It would be very intense training for a couple of weeks, and something they could leave behind to train their prospective firefighters," Fruetel said. "[We want] to get them to a point where if there were a major mess, they could at least have some type of fire protection."

"It's all about that next step now," said Coventry Cowens, an institute volunteer who helped coordinate the donation.

At least 30 people died in a church fire in Eldoret after post-election violence in 2008, the BBC reported.

"This was a wake-up call that we needed to get back to the task of helping them modernize their fire service," Lange said.

Delegates from Eldoret first asked for fire equipment when they visited Minneapolis in the fall of 2008.

"We [had] an opportunity to make that relationship meaningful," City Council Member Don Samuels said. "We kind of became the big sister."

The council approved the donation in July, but that was just the first hurdle. The 15-ton rig still had to be shipped a third of the way across the globe at a cost of nearly $20,000.

Eldoret raised the money for the six-week voyage, and when the truck arrived in January, the city had a parade.

Ian Larson is a U of M student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.

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