Monmouth County firehouse donates gear to department in Mexico

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Mutual Aid among fire departments usually work from town to town, not country to country, but in this case -- the Union Beach Fire Company’s Mutual Aid is stretching all the way to Mexico.

What began as a nice vacation in Cancun a few years back for the former fire chief at the Union Hose Fire Company in Union Beach turned into a tour of the Mexican firehouse. He found firefighters were using outdated equipment -- sometimes no equipment at all.

That's about to change.

"When I first started in 2013, some of my fellow firefighters were fighting fires in jeans and tennis shoes,” says Thomas Hurtado, director general of the Cancun Fire Service. “They were flooded with water up to their waist helping people with no rain coats."

Hurtado explains how difficult it can be for firefighters in Mexico.

When the former Union Beach Fire Chief Robert LaBerta was on vacation in Cancun, he saw that equipment and wanted to help. Now, donations from Union Beach, Keyport and other departments will soon be on its way to Cancun.

"They were still using gear from the 1980s in the 1970s, stuff that we would put it in a museum here," says LaBerta. “We want to see everybody go home to their families at the end of the day.”

LaBerta is also the founder of the Knights of the Inferno Firefighter/Military Motorcycle Club, a non-profit organization which will continue the effort to get updated gear and equipment to firefighters South of the Border.

"Originally, we started the motorcycle club because we wanted to do something to help the folks affected by September 11,” says LaBerta.

The equipment should arrive this weekend, and the hope now is to get a couple of fire trucks down to Cancun as well.

A GoFundMe page has been started.

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