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New gear offers boost to under-equipped firefighters

New gear offers boost to under-equipped firefighters

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With only one fire station in the capital and not enough hoses to deal with the city's blazes, the donation is much needed

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A donation of equipment has helped Cambodia's fire fighters.

PHNOM Penh has just one fire station, and if it were not for one ex-firefighter from the US state of Colorado, Phnom Penh's bravest would likely be putting out the capital's fires in T-shirts and flip-flops.

American Doug Mendel has been donating firefighting equipment to Cambodia since 2003. This time - his 12th philanthropic trip - Mendel donated 420 kilograms of fire-retardant pants, gloves, coats, helmets and boots to six fire stations in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, Ratanakkiri and Sihanoukville.

And with each province having only one fire station, Mendel's donations have improved almost a quarter of Cambodia's firehouses.

"It feels good, because now [Cambodian firefighters] are fighting fires more safely and effectively," Mendel said.

Over the past five years, Mendel has raised more than US$70,000 in donations by buying Cambodian arts and crafts and selling them in the US, and from a restaurant in Colorado that periodically donates proceeds to his charity.

He has also given away two firetrucks - one donated from Breckinridge, Colorado, and another that Mendel himself built in Phnom Penh.

Sok Vanra, the captain of Phnom Penh's only fire station, said before Mendel's donations the station was not sufficiently equipped to deal with major fires. "The station still needs more fire hoses, but Mendel's work has made a real difference.

"It is very difficult, because Phnom Penh is wide open, and there are so many buildings, but the [donated] equipment makes our work easier and safer," he said.

Mendel is planning to spend 2009 fundraising, and when he returns in 2010, he hopes to have more firetrucks built and to help open more fire stations in the capital.

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