Sharing a fire truck and friendship

At home in Guanajuato, Mexico, Francisco Mata Suarez drives a former Ashland fire truck through the city's narrow streets.

But this week, the 23-year-old firefighter got to travel in a new "moto bomba" — with the Ashland Fire & Rescue department.

"I feel very, very good," Mata Suarez said at the city's main firehouse on Monday. "The equipment in Mexico is old. Here it's totally different, and new, and better."

The Ashland department donated an outdated "moto bomba," or fire truck, to Guanajuato in 2004, and it is still in use there, Mata Suarez confirmed.

The smaller-sized truck is well-suited to Guanajuato's narrow streets, said Captain Walt Anders with Ashland Fire & Rescue, who helped deliver the truck to the Mexican city.

Anders and other fire officials are hosting Mata Suarez this week, allowing him to stay at their homes and at the firehouse.

About 70 Guanajuato natives are in Ashland for a 40th anniversary celebration of the sister-city relationship between the two cities.

Many of the visitors are staying with locals in order to learn more about American culture and to hopefully make friends, said Ann Seltzer, a management analyst with the city, who is helping to coordinate the hosting arrangements.

"My sense is that it's all going very well," she said. "It's really an opportunity for people to connect, especially for people who have never been to Ashland before and people who have never hosted a family before."

Seltzer is hosting two women who work for the mayor of Guanajuato.

About 30 Ashland families or individuals are hosting visitors from Mexico this week, she said.

The hosting relationship has been beneficial for both Mata Suarez and Ashland Fire & Rescue, Anders said.

"It's been great. I'm hoping to be able to go back sometime and do some more training with them (firefighters in Guanajuato) and to stay with his family," he said.

Anders speaks some Spanish and Mata Suarez speaks some English, so the two have been able to communicate fairly easily, Anders said.

"The other night we stayed up talking until 11:30," he said. "My kids have both had a little bit of Spanish, so between all of us we communicate very well."

Mata Suarez has been going with fire officials on some emergency calls this week and participating in training sessions with the crew. On Monday he said he was "a little" nervous about working with the Ashland firefighters, but he was glad Walt could help translate for him.

"I can speak with the people in Mexico, but here, only a little. But my help is here," he said, and he and Anders both laughed.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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