The Douglas Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund was created to fulfill a void in delivering much-needed supplies and gear to 7 towns in the country of Cambodia. Some of the supplies include Bunker Coats, Bunker Pants, Bunker Boots, Helmets, Gloves, Nomex Hoods and Radios for firefighting communication. Supplies have been delivered to Sihanoukville, Prey Nop, Kampot, Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap and Ban Lung (Ratanakiri Province).
Two ranger stations have benefited from the Cambodian Relief Fund as well, with Bokor National Park near Kampot and Angkor Protected Landscape in Siem Reap receiving funds. Back in 2004, I noticed there was a red firetruck stationed at the base or entrance, and it turned out that the rangers needed assistance with gear; pants, shirts, shoes, compasses, radios, cameratraps that photograph wildlife, and a desktop computer.
I also helped M’lop Tapang (Mlop
In April 2004, Major Sok at the fire station in Sihanoukville, on the coast of Cambodia, asked me for a firetruck. I told him, 'give me 2 years, and I'll have you a firetruck.' I was true to my word within a 2 day window and Engine 633, donated by Red, White and Blue in Breckenridge, CO, arrived at the port in Sihanoukville on April 8, 2006.
Engine 633 has responded to about 30 calls since its arrival in Sihanoukville in April 2006. After about 6 months in the port coastal town, Captain Sok decided that it would be beneficial for the small town of Prey Nop to have Engine 633, since the town gets one fire a year and by the time a firetruck arrives from Sihanoukville, 30 miles to the south, whatever was on fire has already burned to the ground. As of around July of 2015, Engine 633 has been relocated back to Sihanoukville, as another firetruck has been allocated to Prey Nob.
The majority of the fires are started in the kitchen or through a faulty electrical connections. The expression, “It saved the day”, really came to fruition in January 2008 in Prey Nop. The market, which houses about 160 stalls, caught on fire. Engine 633 was stationed about 75 meters away, and by the time it arrived at the market, it doused the one stall that was on fire and saved the other stalls and quite possibly the whole market from going up in flames, consequently saving 159 families' livelihoods from going up in smoke.
In terms of its physical size, Cambodia is slightly smaller than the state of Oklahoma, but the Sooner State has only a quarter the amount of residents. So, to put things into perspective, the capital, Tulsa, which has a population of about 400,000 people, has over 600 firefighters to protect the one city – one firefighter for every 667 residents – while the entire country of Cambodia has a mere 500 firefighters to protect the entire country … a meager firefighter for every 30,000 residents. That’s a 667 to 30,000 ratio, protecting one U.S. city versus an entire country.
Cambodia is in dire need of our resources. The entire country has a population of approximately 16 million people, all residing within its 20 provinces and 4 municipalities. Phnom Penh, the capital, has 1 main fire station and several satellite stations to protect the 2 million people that live there, though, each of the other provinces and municipalies has only 1 fire station to protect life and property in vast land areas that could take an hour or more to get to the location of the incident.
So, as you can see, Cambodia is in dire need of more resources, including firefighter training, firetrucks and fire stations to help level the playing field and keep the residents of Cambodia safer from the devastating effects a fire can cause.
While all of these needs are pressing, the current need is to maintain Engine 633, which was donated by Red, White and Blue in Breckenridge, CO, in 2006. Raising money for oil changes, and general upkeep of Engine 633, are ongoing needs. Engine 633 arrived in Sihanoukville on 4/8/06 and has responded to about 30 incidents, including fires and motor vehicle accidents, where a vehicle has caught on fire. The most prominent incident was a market fire in January, 2008 in the small rural town of Prey Nop. The fire truck was stationed 30 seconds away from the market and by the time it arrived only one stall had burned, while over 150 stalls were saved from going up in flames.
The Douglas Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund is always appreciative of the support it receives.
Also look out for a book that is published about Douglas' journey to Cambodia, starting with his first trip back in June, 1997. The book goes into detail about the personal and professional adventures and experiences, and the journey for both firetrucks that were delivered to 2 towns in Cambodia. The book was published in February of 2016!
Travel has always captivated my heart, and by the time I had visited Cambodia in June of 1997, my passport had been stamped by over 45 countries. Cambodia was the one country that resonated in my heart and soul with the beautiful people, amazing culture, delectable food, hot and humid weather and colorful handicrafts.
My background being a volunteer firefighter had me visit fire stations during my travels. On my 3rd trip to Cambodia in June 2001, I stumbled upon a fire station in Sihanoukville while walking to my guesthouse from town. At the time, there was one red firetruck in an open bay and maybe a few people milling about.
Once back at home, I had an idea that maybe I could help the fire station in Sihanoukville. I collected 3 boxes of stationwear clothing (pants, shirts, boots and windbreakers) that I brought over in February 2003. With that first visit to a needy firestation, the seed was planted within me to help that station and discover others that could use my help.
The beautiful and exotic country of Cambodia has a population of approximately 16 million people ... More...