Carmine Riccitelli had a very special delivery to make on Monday.
And the important task took the longtime East Haven firefighter from here along the Connecticut shoreline all the way down the coast to the bustling piers of the Port of Baltimore.
The good news: the delivery was successfully made. The bad news: Riccitelli was now going to need a ride back home.
A 1980 Ford Reborn
That's because the vehicle he drove from East Haven to the busy eastern seaboard port — a 1980 Ford Emergency One fire engine — was left behind so it could sail on down to its new home in the Imbabura Province of Ecuador.
The pumper truck had been a member of the East Haven Fire Department's fleet for more than three decades. But with the department recently bringing , the 1980 Ford was retired in November.
With the vehicle no longer meeting current safety requirements, there was no way the truck could be put back in use by another area department.
"Still, it is in pretty good shape," Riccitelli said, adding that most of the replacement parts that would be needed for the vehicle are still being made.
And so, instead of sending it off to the scrap yard, Riccitelli has spent the past few months revamping the truck, as well as making all the necessary calls and filling out all the necessary paperwork to donate the vehicle to a fire station in Otavalo, Ecuador that is in desperate need for a new one.
Town of Otavalo
The town of Otavalo, home to the indigenous Otavalo people, is located in a rather poor and mountainous area of the country.
"It's way up there in the Andes mountains," Riccitelli said.
Because of this, one of the more remote fire departments there in need of a truck simply did not have the funding or resources available to purchase one.
But now a donated "new" Engine 6 is on its way to the rural firehouse, thanks to the efforts of Riccitelli.
"It doesn't matter if we don't speak the same language, it's still a brotherhood," he said of firefighters.
For the past several years, the East Haven resident has been taking part in humanitarian missions through the New York City-based nonprofit organization "People Helping People."
Although his volunteer work has sent him to parts all over the world, most recently his missions have been based in Ecuador.
During his trip there last year to help build a new school and set up a water purification system, word came to Riccitelli that one of the local fire departments in the area was in great need of a new fire truck.
Knowing at that time his own department was on track to get two new engines — which would lead to the retirement of the 1980 Ford — when he returned to East Haven, Riccitelli began to take the steps needed to acquire all the necessary approvals needed to donate the truck to the station in Otavalo.
Who Has the Hose?
After getting the green light from East Haven Fire Chief Douglas Jackson and Assistant Chief Chuck Licata, and approval from the Town Council, Riccitelli switched his focus to prepping the engine for service at its new fire station.
During this process, the East Haven resident hit one big snag: the fire hose the EHFD had been using on the truck was too modern for the Otavalo station.
And so, he would have to find a way to equip the truck with older hose to ensure the vehicle would be able to be used by the Ecuadorian department.
Riccitelli's patience and persistence in the search — and the assistance of East Haven Fire Deputy Chief P.J. Norwood — paid off.
One department donated a portion of the hose needed. And then another passed along all of the rest that would be required.
"It was like we hit gold. Now they have a fire engine with all the hose on it they need. And it was all donated," Riccitelli said.
Paperwork — And More Paperwork
Riccitelli told East Haven Patch that he also ran into another road block with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, as he was attempting to finalize the engine's shipping paperwork.
"It took me four weeks to get back to where I was in the beginning," he said with a laugh.
Eventually, after countless phone calls, Riccitelli was finally able to complete all of the paperwork needed to get the engine ready to drive down, and then ship out of, Baltimore earlier this week.
"I actually feel a little emotional about this," he said. "We don't like to see an older firetruck end up at the scrap yard."
Training This Fall
But Riccitelli's mission isn't done yet. It will take several weeks for freighter the Engine 6 is sailing on to reach Ecuador. And then it will take several more days for it to travel across land to its new headquarters in Otavalo.
Once it is on site, however, Riccitelli will return to the region this fall to train the Otavalo firefighters on their new apparatus.
Medical Supplies Fundraiser
In addition to a new truck, the station in Otavalo is also in great need of medical supplies.
And so, Riccitelli has also begun a parallel effort to raise enough funding to purchase the EMT team there 50 pounds of new medical supplies.
"I'm going to use it to fill the void of the stuff they haven't gotten," he said.
He added that anyone interested in assisting the medical supplies fundraiser can do so by making a donation to "People Helping People," and then mailing the check to: People Helping People, 76 Salerno Ave. East Haven, CT 06512
Riccitelli asks that the word "medical" be placed in the memo line of any check sent in for the fundraiser. And he added, that since People Helping People is a nonprofit group, all donations are tax deductible.
'Kind of Emotional'
In the meantime, Riccitelli said he'll be looking forward to later this year when he gets another chance to visit with the old East Haven engine — the truck he rode out on more than 25 years ago to his first fire call, on his first shift, during his first day as a young member of the EHFD.
"To see this truck going to be utilized in another country, is kind of emotional," he said. "I'll be waiting for the reunion to see her again."