Summit County philanthropist departs for Cambodia to support firefighters |

Summit County philanthropist departs for Cambodia to support firefighters

summit daily news

SUMMIT COUNTY – A local man departs for Cambodia next month on one of many philanthropic trips to support firefighting services in the impoverished nation.

“The people are just so friendly, caring and giving,” Doug Mendel said, adding that they’re “spiritually rich” and “materialistically poor.”

He’ll leave Feb. 12 on his 16th trip to the Cambodia, where he’ll distribute goods that have already set sail for the South East Asian country. Mendel has run The Douglas Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund since 2003; it has been a nonprofit since 2005.

He most recently collected goods donated by Colorado fire stations and shipped a 20-foot container with 100 sets of bunker gear, 115 helmets, 5,000 feet of fire hose, 200 pair of firefighting pants and more on Jan. 13.

The ship is expected to arrive in the country Feb. 8. It was insured for $110,000.

Three firefighters from Denver International Airport are traveling with Mendel to help train about 25 Cambodian firefighters in Phnom Penh, the nation’s capitol.

Mendel said he hopes the firefighters will begin making regular trips to the country.

Cambodia has about 14 million people divided among about 25 provinces – each with only about one fire station.

Phnom Penh (pop. 2 million) has about 90 firefighters and 12 trucks “to protect the whole capital,” Mendel said.

He is trying to raise $25,000 to $30,000 for a fire station in the remote Ratanakiri Province, to which a fire truck was donated in 2007. He’s raised about $15,000 so far.

In 2006, an old fire engine from the Breckenridge’s Red, White and Blue Fire District was donated to Sihanoukville.

Mendel is packing several donated toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste among other items to distribute to the Cambodian people.

His relief fund’s objectives also include supporting organizations that care for disadvantaged children and disabled adults, and assisting Cambodia’s national parks.

Mendel lived in Summit County from 1991 to 2006. He moved to Moab, Utah and also lived in Montrose before moving to Silverthorne, where he now resides.

He sells Cambodian crafts, such as purses, through local vendors including the Next Page Bookstore in Frisco.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or

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