On an overcast afternoon, smoke billows out of a concrete building at the Carson City Fire Training Center. Twenty-six Fire Commanders—called Bomberos—from the Santiago region of Chile, are practicing new skills learned during a week-long workshop, and each has an eye on taking home preparation techniques to share with their colleagues to improve operations.
The TMCC Public Safety Department and Fire Academy Program have welcomed the Bomberos, in a partnership with Chilean-American company, Free Spirit USA, and the Nevada State Fire Marshal, to provide a mix of classroom and practical advanced level training.
“No two of these commanders have ever worked together before,” said Darryl Cleveland, TMCC Chief Fire Officer and Director of the Public Safety Department, “so it’s been team building, it’s been wonderful. We also have the superintendent of the region here with us.”
In Chile, all firefighters are volunteers including the Bomberos, who are among the leaders of the approximately 12,000 volunteers throughout the country. The partnership with TMCC began with a business trip last spring, when Cleveland visited Chile and formed a relationship with Free Spirit USA.
“(This week) has been a great experience, not only from the standpoint of education,” said Philippe Reitich of Free Spirit USA. “It’s about the blend of experiences, how much you can understand about the American way of thinking.”
Learning New Skills
Chile has a national academy which offers firefighters training, but due to the smog in the country, live fires in Santiago are prohibited. Most of the Bomberos have been trained with simulators, except for those who have visited a training center.
Today the Bomberos work in teams, wearing full gear and taking turns approaching the burning building. Some use axes to open locked doors; others on the second floor must enter the building to extinguish the flames. Each firefighter rotates through fire tactical, search and rescue, rapid intervention team, rehab station, and check in at the incident command station.
“We train them on forcible entry techniques, and we used the digital simulation table for wildland fires,” Cleveland continued. “We also did firefighter survival training–how to free themselves when they get entrapped–which is very, very strenuous.
“We’re doing a lot of basic training and throwing in some command considerations for them. When you would do certain things, why you would do them, how to know when to implement certain procedures.”
Besides the live structural training, vehicle fires and propane gas fire drills, each Bombero joined a ride-along with one of various fire agencies in Northern Nevada. When they return home, the Bomberos will have acquired a certificate from TMCC recognizing completion of the training; but more importantly their skills will be ready to put to use.
Event organizers and departments sending instructors for the Chile Bomberos training also included Sparks Fire Department, Storey County Fire Protection District, Central Lyon Fire Protection District, Fallon Naval Air Base Fire Department, and Carson City Fire Department.