Iowa fire department donates used gear to firefighters in Mexico

Published: Jul. 26, 2019 at 9:34 AM CDT
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For firefighters, seconds can mean the difference between life and death. That's why they wear such heavy, protective gear.

But imagine fighting fires, putting your life on the line without that gear.

One veteran Iowa fire chief is going beyond the call of duty to bring that life-saving gear to firefighters in a small town in Mexico.

Newton Fire Chief Jarrod Wellik has been answering emergency calls for more than 20 years.

Running this small-town fire department, Chief Wellik collected more than $90,000 of essential firefighting gear to donate to a small town in Mexico.

"This project was something that we put together because we recognize how important it is for us to protect our people here is no different than it is in Mexico or any other any other country," he said.

Reaching out to fellow fire chiefs, equipment came pouring in.

"We had 3 different departments come forward and say that this is this is an awesome project, we can't wait to give you stuff," he said.

Local restaurant owners Kim Lopez and her father helped connect Chief Wellik with a department in Jalisco, Mexico--the town where Lopez's parents are from.

They are driving their packed SUV more than 1800 miles, a 27-hour trip, to deliver all the equipment.

"I can't imagine going to a fire and trying to help others without the proper gear. These people put their lives on the line every day to protect people and they're not even protecting themselves," the chief said.

The life-saving equipment would have been for a landfill.

"This is your barrier between you and the heat and the smoke and the bad stuff," he said.

After 10 years, U.S. regulations from the National Fire Protection Association require used gear to be retired.

when it reaches 10 years a lot of people will say it's actually seasoned. And so that means that it's kind of come into its own and it's actually more protective," Chief Wellick said.

A set of turnout gear is also expensive.

"Complete set of gear including helmet is about $2,500," the chief said. "So in total here we have more than about 50 jackets and 46 pants and like 13 pairs of boots."

This is small-town Iowa fire department is getting its chance to make a world of difference.

"It's about giving to the brotherhood. That's what we call it in the United States. The fire service is a brotherhood," the chief said. "The fact that they don't have the resources available to purchase new equipment anytime we can help out a fellow brother or sister we're gonna give."

The Marion Fire Department is one of the departments that sent equipment to Newton. They had helmets that were too old for state code in Iowa.

In March, the chief told TV9 they were glad to donate them to keep firefighters in Mexico a little safer.