The sun seemed to be shining brighter than usual last Friday morning outside the Johnston Fire Department headquarters on Atwood Avenue.
It seemed as though the sun was blazing a trail all the way to Bani, a tiny village in the Dominican Republic, where firefighters are heroes but often don’t have the resources to save as many lives as they’d like.
However, that changed quickly last Friday morning when Mayor Joseph Polisena pulled off a unique and historic first, and issued a statewide challenge, when he announced the Town of Johnston was donating two fire trucks to the villages of Bani and Hato Mayor in the Dominican Republic.
“These two fire trucks helped save lives here in Johnston,” Polisena said, “now they’ll save lives in the Dominican Republic.”
Polisena presented Carol Aguasvivas of the Community Angels and Julio Ortiz from the Abundance of Water an envelope that contained the official donation agreement for the two fire trucks that he said “were no longer usable for service (by the Johnston Fire Department) yet they have been upgraded and both units do have some serviceable life in to them and will be of use in the Dominican Republic.”
Aguasvivas and Ortiz, as well as Rhode Island State Senator Ana B. Quezada were ecstatic with the donation of both fire engines.
“What great gifts,” Quezada said. “The fire trucks will be a welcome addition in the Dominican Republic, how do I thank you for this donation?”
Johnston not only donated two surplus fire trucks that were not in use or part of the high quality fleet that’s under the direction of Chief Peter Lamb, the town also donated two rigid hull inflatable 12-foot Zodiac boats as part of the transaction of surplus equipment.
“This is all about giving and caring,” Polisena told representatives from RI’s Dominican Republic community during last Friday morning’s press conference. “As Mayor, I’m challenging as well as urging other towns and cities around the state that have surplus equipment like this to do the same thing.”
Polisena explained that Johnston is donating a yellow 1989 pumper manufactured by Emergency One – a 1,000 gallon per minute pumper with a 750 gallon water tank.
The second pumper is a 1999 fire truck manufactured by Ferrara Fire Apparatus and is a 1250 gallon per minute pumper with a 750 water tank.
The program came into being when Polisena met with Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, who has worked closely with the Community Angels on a number of life enhancing programs that has led two the two political leaders, who are long-time friends, creating what is a welcome surplus donation program.
“I can’t tell you how this will change the lives of our firefighters in the Dominican Republic,” Aguasvivas said. “The fire trucks and inflatable boats will create increased public safety for the citizens of the Dominican Republic.”
Once the official part of the donation ceremony was complete, Aguasvivas made her way to the red pumper – the 1999 shiny red pumper – and after Polisena opened the vehicle door, she climbed into the driver’s seat with a smile.
The highly-respected Community Angels leader, who has become well-known for her efforts of helping people in the state’s Dominican Republic community, took a deep breath and sighed.
“What a tremendous gift,” she said of the pumper.
Both fire vehicles, Aguasvivas announced at last Friday’s press conference, will be towed from JFD headquarters on Atwood Avenue to Providence by Precision Towing of Johnston. Then, another company will transport the two vehicles to the Port of New Jersey where they’ll be loaded onto a container ship for a 45-day journey to the DR.