WICHITA — Volunteers provide nearly all of the firefighting protection in the South American country of Paraguay. Their equipment is mostly what they can gather and adapt by their efforts. They will soon have an additional 5 tons of protective gear, thanks to Kansas Paraguay Partners.

KPP has gathered surplus equipment that can no longer be used in Kansas due to its age or changes in safety requirements. The Wichita Fire Department is the leading donor, along with fire departments from Clearwater, Colwich, Hesston, Newton, Walton and Wellington.

"We are deeply grateful for Kansas fire departments reaching out to support their international colleagues," said KPP representative Steve Richards.

About 85 percent of fire personnel in Kansas are also volunteers. Priority is given to local needs before donations are sent farther away.

The Wichita Fire Department has been host to the fire equipment donation project. Firefighters and others volunteer their own time to the effort to sort and pack the equipment.

However, Kansas hand-me-downs will be a major boost to the Corps of Volunteer Firefighters of Paraguay. For example, 100 air pack breathing units may increase their inventory by as much as 30 percent.

According to a news release, KPP interest in Emergency Preparedness was reinvigorated after a tragic fire killed more than 400 and injured hundreds more in the capitol of Asuncion in 2004.

The US Air Force will airlift the donation from McConnell Air Base as part of the Denton Humanitarian Assistance Transportation Program. The Denton Program puts extra space on US military transport to use, when available, for humanitarian aid. The Denton Program is administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of State (DOS) and Department of Defense (DOD).

The Kansas Paraguay chapter of Partners of the Americas creates opportunities and fosters understanding by promoting bilateral people-to-people exchanges. Active since 1968, projects include Civil Society, Cultural Arts, Education, Health, International Trade, and Natural Resources in addition to Emergency Preparedness. Partners of the Americas (POA) is the western hemisphere’s largest private, completely apolitical volunteer organization.