Chilean Firefighters Come To Houston To Hone Their Craft

Firefighters with the Santiago Bomberos from Chile sought refuge from the blazing summer heat under a shaded awning at the Val Jahnke Training Facility near Hobby Airport.

Sergio Selman is one of the 13 firefighters in Houston for two weeks of instruction, one week in the classroom at the academy, and the other observing and assisting Houston firefighters.

"Learning how you work, how each engine tower and everything works, and we'll be part of different shifts, so we'll try to be a Houston Firefighter."

Hernandez: "Sergio, is it good to have the instruction come from other fire departments in the world?"

Selman: "Yeah, definitely because we've got a new challenge that are being built, huge high-rise buildings. So, we're looking for experience in other places, that have this problem, the high-rise fire, intelligent buildings. So, we started looking, and we made contact with the Houston Fire Department, and we realized that we have very similar experience, and you've got a very good academy, professional people. So we're looking for knowledge to go back home and teach the rest."

George Salcedo is an engineer-operator and paramedic with the HFD. He says they form relationships with fire departments from other countries, and share training techniques.

"We have expanded our facility quite a bit since 2005, and we have some good training here available for them. This group that we have here, they paid out of their own pocket to come here and get this training. I believe there's only one of them that had funding provided to them. The rest, they pretty much save up for about a year, and then they make the schedule to come up here and do the training."

Hernandez: "As far as apparatus goes, do they have comparable apparatus?"

Salcedo: "They do have comparable apparatus, but of course, they don't have the number of fire stations, or the same amount of equipment that you may see here in Houston or here in the United States."

Salcedo says they may wear a different uniform, but the common bond is universal.

Once again, Chilean fire fighter Sergio Selman:

"We all love the work. We all love the job. Our biggest thing is to save people, first of all. Then maybe, save the things and the houses and everything, but save people. Give life back to someone that's in trouble. And it's very important for us, because knowledge is being developed in every part of the world. Maybe our experience can be similar to Houston, and this relationship is important  to continue every year."

He calls it a chance to make a difference, but knowing the necessity of sometimes risking life itself.

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