Pittsford couple giving old firetruck new life in Africa
Churchville, NY - June 4, 2011

Written by
Ernst Lamothe Jr.
June. 4, 2011 Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester NY

Two years ago, Dave Conquest was visiting Bongolo Hospital in Gabon, Africa, where his son-in-law oversees a residency program for future doctors.

A fire broke out in the medical warehouse on the hospital's property. He watched young children run into the burning building with buckets of water attempting to put out the fire, while other children ran into the building trying to save as many medical supplies and equipment as possible.

The 132-bed facility, which provides an AIDS and HIV clinic, surgery and pediatric care, was almost 200 miles from the nearest fire hydrant and didn't have a nearby fire department to quickly extinguish the flames.

The continuous buckets of water ultimately worked, but that day could have been filled with casualties.

"I feared for everyone's life, and the sight of seeing youths from Gabon running into the building as the fire spread was something that I couldn't put out of my mind," said Conquest, of Pittsford.

Conquest and his wife, Diann, began work to make sure the situation never happened again.

They found a 1975 Mack CF600 six-cylinder red firetruck on eBay. Previously used by the New York Fire Department, the couple paid $3,175 for the winning bid. But driving the firetruck the 250 miles to Pittsford was not their only obstacle.

While the truck was in relatively good condition, it needed some repairs.

Work had to be done on the pump and water distribution system along with repairs to hoses and its brake system.

The Conquests enlisted the help of Barry Sens, a retired commissioner of the Pittsford Fire District, and John Alfieri of the Churchville Fire Equipment Corp., which donated hours of labor for the necessary repairs.

Through fundraisers and donations, the community raised almost $20,000 for the repairs and will ship the truck to Africa within the next few months.

"We service firetrucks in the states of Pennsylvania and New York, but this is certainly the first time our work will have international impact," said Alfieri.

On Saturday, despite the rain, the Pittsford community had a celebration featuring the red truck. Diann Conquest said she's amazed by the support from the community. She said she knows that a firetruck could have put the fire out in Gabon in minutes.

The Pittsford couple now hopes to travel back to Africa and see another image that will hopefully replace the last one - a scene of jubilation.

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