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Firefighters in Beirut, Lebanon will soon have a new tool at their disposal after the City of Los Angeles donated a surplus fire engine on Tuesday as part of the Sister Cities program.
The donation was made by Councilmembers Dennis Zine, 3rd District, and Tom LaBonge, 4th District, who gathered with representatives from Beirut and Los Angeles at the Sister Cities Monument near city hall. Zine, who is of Lebanese decent, said he was proud to help the City of Beirut. The donation also marked the fifth anniversary of the sister city relationship between the two cities.
“Five years ago, in June 2006, City Council President Eric Garcetti and I went to Beirut and met with government officials, attended cultural events and social events, and we ate and ate and ate. It was absolutely phenomenal,” Zine said. “We toured around and we signed the official documents to create a sister city. Now, we are giving a fire truck as part of the sister cities relationship, because we heard that they needed fire equipment.”
Zine added that the donation is the first of many the city plans to provide to Beirut in the future. The councilmember said the relationship was formed to create a bridge of understanding between the two cities and cultures.
According to Capt. Kelly Toman, with the Los Angeles Fire Department, the city frequently donates surplus equipment to cities, countries and other entities in need. In other cases, the equipment is sold at auction. The fire engine being donated is a 1986 model, and was retired after 25 years of service.
“We have donated to Puerto Rico before and donated to Mexico, and I believe we are onboard to donate some equipment to Chile soon,” Toman said. “It would probably only sell for a thousand dollars or so at auction, so it’s good that the equipment goes to a place where it is really needed and will be put to good use.”
In addition to the donation, Zine and LaBonge unveiled three public benches around the Sister Cities Monument donated by the Los Angeles Beirut Sister City Committee (LABSCC). LaBonge, who is president of Los Angeles Sister Cities, Inc., said it is important to foster relationships with other cities because Los Angeles is a melting pot of people from around the world.
“This is what L.A. is all about,” LaBonge said. “I believe it is all about communication, people to people, and when people get together, good things happen. Los Angeles is a great mosaic of people, and it is represented right here.”
Nadim Costa, a city councilmember from Beirut, attended the ceremony and said the fire engine will be a valuable asset. The group also included Lebanese Consul General Madonna Ghazal, and Wafa Hoballah, president of the Los Angeles/Beirut Sister Cities Board.
“The fire truck and this relationship is another example of the bond between Los Angeles and Beirut,” Nadim said. “I look forward to developing that relationship and bringing it to a new level of cooperation. We really rely on these relationships to make a difference. We see it as not only building relationship with all of Lebanon, but as building a relationship between the West and the Middle East.”
Los Angeles Sister Cities was founded in 1959, with the first partnerships formed with Nagoya, Japan and Eilat, Israel. The program promotes international relations, trade, cultural exchange, and peace. Los Angeles currently has 25 sister cities. For information, visit www.sistercities-ofla.com.
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