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Monday, April 30, 2007

Mendel to equip Cambodians with second firetruck (Water Tender)

Douglas Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund
Doug Mendel will be selling Cambodian crafts at the Almost 2 Mile High Flea Market in Silverthorne on June 20. For more information, visit


SUMMIT COUNTY — Doug Mendel hopes to provide Cambodians with a second fire truck in the next several months, but this time he'll skip the time-consuming task of shipping a multi-thousand-pound piece of equipment halfway across the world.

Mendel, a longtime local who recently relocated to Moab, Utah, is in the process of having a water tender built in Phnom Penh, Cambodia through his Douglas Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund.

Last year, he shipped a 30-year-old fire engine donated by Breckenridge's Red, White and Blue Fire District to the Sihanoukville Fire Department in Southern Cambodia. It has since responded to two fires in the port city.

Mendel's latest undertaking included wiring $11,000 to a close friend in Phnom Penh, who is working with the captain of the Phnom Penh Fire Station to have the new truck built.

They will purchase a used two-and-a-half ton Korean truck, then contract out to have it outfitted with a 2,000 liter water tank, a pump, hose, lights and sirens, and a fresh coat of red paint.

When the job is done around June, three firefighters from the rural northeastern province of Ratanakiri will take a 12-hour, 360-mile bus ride to the capital city of Phnom Penh to pick up their gift.

The shiny new truck will replace the eight-person department's aging engine.

"They have one Chinese fire truck that's maybe 25 years old that is 50 percent operational," Mendel said.

Mendel also hopes his nonprofit will raise enough money this year to build a concrete fire station so the crew, based in the province capital Ban Lung, has a place to work and sleep, similar to U.S. fire departments.

He envisions a small facility with four offices that double as shift quarters specifically for the fire department's use.

"They kind of share space with police and so when there is a fire the firefighters have to go from their home to the fire station and then to the scene, like we did 10 years ago. This will help cut down response time greatly," Mendel said.

He estimates he'll need anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 for that project.

Mendel singled out the Ratanakiri province, which borders Vietnam and Laos and has no paved roads or stop signs, for his latest round of aid because its rural location makes it less likely for the government to provide any financial assistance.

Since Mendel formed his nonprofit organization three years ago, he's collected more than $100,000 between donations, fundraisers and proceeds from his Cambodian craft sales. Of that, about 80 percent has gone back to the Cambodian people. Beyond donating the fire trucks, Mendel has provided numerous fire stations with fire-resistant jackets and pants donated by local fire departments. He regularly delivers stuffed animals, toothbrushes and toothpaste to Cambodian street children and has given one underfunded national park nearly $10,000 worth of electronic equipment, such as GPS units, compasses and digital cameras.

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