The tragedy of September 11, 2001 devastated firefighters across North America including the crew of Station 114 in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. The five-member “A” shift wanted to commemorate the victims of 9/11, so the firefighters decided to sponsor a child. During a subsequent visit to World Vision’s headquarters, they pored over photographs of 10 children. These men, who constantly make life or death judgements, couldn’t decide which child to help.
Finally, firefighter Kevin Bailey, 34, broke the stalemate, choosing a boy from Indonesia. Sadly, Kevin died two weeks later in an off-duty rock climbing accident.
“Kevin was a firefighter with a passion for life and a love of humanity,” said the crew’s captain, Alan Hills. In lieu of flowers at his funeral, his friends and family were asked to make a donation to World Vision. This got the crew thinking of how they could honour Kevin’s memory and get even more involved.
The men contacted World Vision and learned about Ventanilla, Peru, a poor district where a fire had recently left 604 people homeless; an immediate connection was sparked.
The crew wanted to help the local volunteer fire brigade to better cope with such disasters. Together, the crew members — Captain Hills, Tom Gojak, Andrew Melville, Aron Reppington, and Jamie Stark — decided to travel to Ventanilla on their own time and at their own expense with World Vision’s Destination Life Change (DLC) volunteer program. Before their trip, the men approached other fire stations and local corporations for donations of equipment, which the Peruvian firefighters desperately needed.
They collected firefighting gear, Spanish training manuals, and rescue equipment, including a manual version of the Jaws of Life. “We come from a full-time department with an annual budget of millions of dollars, the latest high-tech equipment, vehicles, and personal protective gear,” says Captain Hills. “The Ventanilla bomberos (firefighters) receive some funding from the National Fire Service of Peru, but they rely on local fundraising to make ends meet.”
The trip ignited a partnership. Their counterparts in Ventanilla were thankful for the training and for the Canadians’ generosity. “This was our first experience in receiving brother firefighters from overseas,” says Captain Raul Thais. “We didn’t expect to receive so much equipment, but we are really grateful because it was needed for so long.” On their last day together, all the firefighters signed an “Act of Brotherhood,” committing to work together for their communities’ safety.
Kevin Bailey would be proud of all they accomplished together. Kevin Bailey was one firefighter with a dream for a strong organization which reaches out whenever there is a need. Today, Firefighters Without Borders continues to honour Kevin by reaching out to communities in Canada and around the world.