For the better part of the last twenty years, The Canadian group known as Angels for Mexico have been bringing much needed supplies of all kinds from park “jungle Gyms”, Medical Equipment, and of course firefighting necessities to support the Fire Departments of Puerto Vallarta. The lady heading up this important and impressive organization is Christena Callaghan. She’s a blond headed, attractive, thin, tall, Stiletto wearing lady who loves Mexico. She started with bringing clothing and items for the less fortunate into the “barrios” or local neighborhoods of Nayarit and Jalisco. Focusing much of her attention on the Puerto Vallarta Bomberos / Firefighters. Naturally this is just a brief biography of past events. And as always Angels for Mexico is looking to the future!
Recently there was a meeting to discuss how Angels for Mexico can expand their wings and support more municipalities with this much needed, purely volunteer support. In this group meeting held in Guayabitos to discuss the distribution of these firefighting items, which include expensive items like “The Jaws of Life”, Air tanks, Radios, Helmets and the list is extensive. But this group is about more than equipment. You have to know how to use it and how to apply proper firefighting procedures. In situations where actions count and mistakes can be disastrous, the mostly volunteer Bomberos who have little to no training are starved for this sort of educational opportunities. The Bomberos who attend in turn will return to their perspective areas and in turn teach others what they have learned.
Those participating in the meeting were Arturo Gomez Director of Protection Civil Compostela, Luis Cortes Captain Guayabitos, Tim Flaherty Retired US Fire Captain, Oscar and Ivan Andalon Fire Extinguishers and training facility owners, A1 Fire Safety, Alejandro Ramos Captain Mascota Bomberos, Gerardo Castilion Chief Bomberos Vallarta, Mario Garcia Vallarta Bombero and Trainer, Jesus Martinez Chief Santa Maria del Oro, Luis Nuñez City Hall Santa Maria del Oro and of course it was all headed by Christine Callaghan. Angels for Mexico will also be inviting Talpa, Bahia de Banderas, Las Varas and Zucualpan to the training.
Over the years Christena has been one of, if not the most important supporter of the Bomberos (aka Firefighters) here in Puerto Vallarta. When she first started the individual Bomberos had no firefighting equipment to speak of. No protective clothing to enter burning buildings. No air tanks, no radios, no helmets, pretty much nothing. This is where Christena started her quest. As a caring and big hearted lady, she stepped up her assistance and began coordinating what the Puerto Vallarta Bomberos needed. She would have them make a wish list and they did. This is where it all started and has continued to this day. They still make wish list, but now it’s not just Puerto Vallarta Bomberos she’s supporting through her generous organization. It’s several local communities from Kilometers around, extending into even the next state of Nayarit. With the help of untold supporters she works with in Calgary. Christina secures funding and various types of support from the locals and from government organizations. But it’s much more than teaching classes with volunteers from Canada. Firefighting equipment is very important, but more important is understanding how to best use this equipment to best serve the general public.
In February there will be a group from several provinces in Canada with the expressed purpose to provide hands on training that otherwise wouldn’t be available. You can imagine the interest from the municipalities and towns from hundreds of miles in any direction.
You see in Canada, everything related to firefighting is dated and has a time stamp like you’d expect from something perishable like food items. But in this case we’re talking about protective Equipment, Air tanks, radios, regulators and even boots. The law in Canada dictates that expired or out of date fire equipment be discarded. Designed to insure every Firefighter in Canada has top of the line equipment, the funny thing about this is, boots don’t really have a shelf life.
Now if you can imagine thousands and thousands of good equipment heading to the dump, it’s heartbreaking when you realize the Mexican Bomberos were running into burning buildings wearing only a motorcycle helmet and wrapping wet rags around the arms and dousing their bodies with water just prior to entering these burning concrete buildings looking for possible survivors. When these brave gentlemen come out, their shoe soles many times are melting from the intense heat. To say this was shocking is an understatement and this is where Christena Callaghan’s Bomberos story begins.
Now I could go on about how Christena went to the Firefighting departments of Calgary and began making contacts. She would tell her story and share how these fellow firefighters were going into harm’s way with no equipment. Being a firefighter is more than a job. It’s who they are, the kind of people that run into the fire, not away from it. These are special people and to learn that most of the Bomberos in Puerto Vallarta are in fact volunteers, completes the picture.
To the Canadian Firefighters, they’re all a giant fraternity of the soul. When the Canadian government officials learned of this sad and dangerous situation, they opened up their hearts. After Christena’s focused and never ending efforts. Puerto Vallarta now has the basics. Each Bombero now has his own personal safety wear and equipment, which as you can imagine is coveted and protected. But these results didn’t come easy. People couldn’t understand why she would care about “Mexico” when there were so many problems in Calgary. But Christena is a bulldog and fought, scratched and pursued those who would listen about how the expired shelf life “trash” could be better used in Mexico.
You see in Calgary and all of Canada, they cannot send these firefighting items to surplus stores and there is no auction for bidding on this perfectly “perfect” equipment. It’s an attempt to avoid corruption in Canada. But, it was still “good stuff” and shouldn’t be just thrown away. Now after years of talking with who-ever would listen, Christena has an impressive organization. And because of this organization Christina recently made another trip to our fair city of Puerto Vallarta to coordinate the next shipment, which is scheduled for now in February 2024.
If you would like to be involved, contact Christena Callaghan at ………………………..