August 10, 2016

Retired Princeton Fire Truck Is On Its Way to Nicaragua

TT Firetruck

NICARAGUA-BOUND: Patrolman Jorge Narvaez and former Princeton Fire Chief Ray Wadsworth prepare to take Mercer Engine No. 3’s 1982 Mack 1250 GPM pumper truck to McGuire Air Force Base on the first leg of its journey to Nicaragua, a donation to the Benemerito Cuerpo de Bomberos volunteer firefighters of Managua.

A 1982 Mack 1250 GPM pumper truck set out early this morning from Princeton Fire Department’s Mercer Engine No. 3 on Witherspoon Street on a journey to Nicaragua. 

At the wheel of the fire truck, a donation to the Benemerito Cuerpo de Bomberos volunteer firefighters of Managua, was former Princeton Fire Chief Ray Wadsworth. In his own car, Jorge Narvaez, a Princeton police patrolman for the past 22 years, accompanied Mr. Wadsworth to McGuire Air Force Base and drove him back to Princeton. The fire truck will continue its journey on a C5 Galaxy Air Force Reserve cargo plane — Thursday to South Carolina and on to Nicaragua on Saturday with three other fire trucks.

Mr. Narvaez, who has been working to acquire and transport this fire truck for over a year, commented on its importance for the Managua fire fighters. “It’s one of the best fire trucks they will have,” he said. “It’s an important asset for them. They just need to fill it with water and gas, and it’ll be ready to go.”

Mr. Wadsworth and Mr. Narvaez will be traveling to Managua in October for an official presentation of the fire truck to the Benemerito Cuerpo de Bomberos, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

When Mr. Narvaez, who grew up in Nicaragua before coming to the U.S. in 1981, was visiting Managua in 2014 he stopped in at the fire company, where he knows the chairman of the board of trustees. They were in dire need of vehicles and equipment.

On his return to Princeton, Mr. Narvaez contacted Mr. Wadsworth for help, and they were able to obtain and send used boots, helmets, and coats to the Managua fire company.

Then in 2015 Mr.Narvaez and Mr. Wadsworth found an opportunity when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ruled that the open cab of Princeton’s 1982 Mack 1250 GPM was a safety hazard and the fire truck had to be replaced.

Mr. Wadsworth was able to purchase the truck for a dollar at auction, along with helmets, 13 pairs of boots, six jackets and 1200 feet of hose. Mr. Narvaez made a video on how to operate the truck, and everything was set — except for transporting the 33,000-pound fire truck.

Carrying it on a flat-bed truck to Baltimore harbor, then on a ship would have cost too much, $9500, so Mr. Narvaez, a master sergeant in the Air National Guard, began an extensive investigation and application process that finally led to this week’s journey.

Key in this process was the Denton Program — operated by the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and the Defense Department — which allows U.S. citizens and organizations to use space available on military cargo aircraft to transport humanitarian goods to countries in need.

Much communication back and forth between Mr. Narvaez and the U.S. embassy in Managua and government officials followed, then extensive forms, measurements, and description to apply for certification to airlift the fire truck in a military aircraft.

This spring Mr. Narvaez’s application was approved, the Air Force sent an inspector to examine the fire truck, and on June 3 Mr. Narvaez received the airlift certification letter that made successful completion of the project a near certainty.

With only the official presentation ceremony in Managua in October to look forward to after today, will Mr. Narvaez be happy to settle back quietly onto his police beat? Not likely. “I’m looking for an ambulance and another fire truck to donate,” he said. “Let me know, (609) 510-4222.”