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Norwalk Fire Truck Heading for Panama

Mike Pinzon came to Norwalk by accident. At age 10, Pinzon's mother asked him whether he wanted to go to Connecticut. The Panamanian heard "Kentucky" and enthusiastically said yes, figuring there would be horse farms.

Now firmly established in Connecticut, Pinzon is strengthening his ties Panama by arranging a major donation to his native country. Pinzon, a volunteer with the Rowayton Hose Company , made the initial contact with Capt. Luis C. Endara III, president of Panama's National Federation of Volunteer Firefighters. Now the hose company's old ladder truck will be heading to Panama. "To us it is a very welcome gift because it will be put to good use," said Endara, who went to Rowayton on Friday to accept the donation and get a look at the truck.

Rowayton's volunteers got a new pump truck last fall to replace the ladder truck, which was bought new in 1982. The $650,000 cost of the new truck was covered by the Sixth Taxing District, which signed off on the donation. "I'd hate to see it sit there and rot," said Pinzon, happy that it worked out.

Mike Barbis, treasurer of the hose company, agreed. "There's a long tradition of American fire departments donating to fire departments in Latin America, and this is continuing that tradition," said Barbis. In the past, Rowayton has donated an old engine to a department in Costa Rica and firefighting gear to a department in Ecuador.

"We currently have equipment that is so old that sometimes parts are very scarce," said Endara, adding that his government promised about $1.5 million to its volunteer fire departments about a year and a half ago. "The last thing I learned is that they cut down the new budget, I still haven't seen any new bids, new trucks, anything like that."

The Panamanians will transport the truck to the Port of Baltimore, Barbis said, where it will be shipped as freight to its final destination. Endara isn't sure where that is; he has three fire departments in mind.

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