As a captain at a small rural volunteer fire department, Cody Helmer always envied larger halls for their state-of-the-art equipment.
But a trip to Mexico caused the Cultus Lake Volunteer Fire Department captain's perspective to shift 180 degrees.
While on vacation, he and his brother Cory, the deputy chief of the hall, decided to check out some of the local firefighting facilities. It was an eye-opening experience.
The firefighters were using worn gumboots and knee-length coats seemingly from another era.
"They had not-very-nice-looking gear," he said. "It was like what you see in an old history book of fire service."
So when the Cultus Lake department was asked by Firefighters Without Borders whether it could spare any old gear, the hall leapt at the chance to donate old equipment, including pants, jackets, boots, masks and helmets.
Founded by an enthusiastic Vancouverite by the name of Jeff Moore, Firefighters Without Borders connects old firefighting gear in Canada with departments in Central and South America, and Africa.
The gear may be 20 years old old, worn and dirty, but it's often a big improvement for for firefighters in other countries, according to Moore.
"It's still good stuff, but Canada has some very, very stringent codes," he said. "All of this stuff was being destroyed-think of it!-and being put into landfill. Think of that. That's pretty brutal."
The program gives the gear a second life at saving lives.
"It's life-saving," Moore told the Times. "I remember making one delivery to the El Salvador fire corps. I spoke to a firefighter who was wearing turnout gear from Canada.
"I said, 'What did you do before this?' "The man said, get this, 'If we weren't careful going into a fire, we would be burned.'"
For years, the Chilliwack Fire Department has donated their obsolete gear both to other B.C. departments in need and FWB.
Assistant chief Jeff Ullyot said doing so is a no-brainer.
Gear that is "worthless" in Canada is often anything but in other parts of the world.
"They have nothing, and to send them something, puts it to good use," Ullyot said. He noted that firefighters in Canada cannot even conceive of the conditions faced by their colleagues in other countries.
"Every year we've taken advantage of new technologies . . . of the highest standard. So we don't know what that's like," he said. "I don't think we'd even be able to fathom it."
It's that attitude that has Helmer and his colleagues so happy to know that their old gear will be put to good use elsewhere.
"Our gear is old, but it would definitely help them," he said. "All the guys here are really excited that we can do something and help other departments. It's all about teamwork and helping everyone out."