Nicaragua — The Nicaraguan capital of Managuais now better protected against fires thanks to training and equipment providedby St. Helena firefighters.
Earlier this month, six St. Helena firefighters brought 800 feet of hose andother equipment to Managua and spent five days teaching wildland firefightingtactics to any Nicaraguan firefighters who would listen. The St. Helenagroups efforts were rewarded when, just minutes after taking care of acontrolled burn, they watched the newly trained firefighters neutralize areal-life blaze that threatened several buildings.
On the last day of the trip, Jake Scheideman, Brandon Tsukroff, Jorge Garibay,John Sorensen, Oscar Arenas and Tony Leonardini had just finished teaching theNicaraguans how to take on a wildland fire, using the equipment supplied by theSt. Helenans. Scheideman said he and his companions were feeling a littlefrustrated that many Nicaraguan firefighters were too proud to participate inthe training.
Reluctant to participate
Some of those guys were just thinking, Oh,come on, why are these guys here? said Scheideman. They refused toparticipate. There were egos involved, but I think that happens worldwide.
Immediately after the willing trainees had put out their final controlled burn,everybodys cell phones started ringing, alerting them to a downtown fire. Theinternational team rushed to the scene.
All the other people who had chosen not to do the training didnt know whatto do, and they were just standing there, Scheideman recalled. But we justwent right past them.
The fire was in a dry ravine, with buildings on either side. In addition tograss and trees, the blaze was consuming garbage that the Nicaraguans had throwninto the ravine. The regions usual 10- to 30-mph winds werent helpingmatters either.
Training paid off
Fortunately, the Nicaraguans had just finished training for precisely this typeof fire, and they brought their new hoses to bear on it, using a progressivehose lay to work their way toward the fire without running out of water.
The St. Helena group gave directions, but left the hose work to the Nicaraguans,who had the fire out in about 15 minutes.
They put it out exactly the way they had been trained, Scheideman said.Everybody got a big kick out of that.
Scheideman said that thanks to the regions dry, windy conditions, wildlandfires pose a major threat to Nicaraguan towns. During the five-day trip, twomajor brush fires and one structure fire flared up in the Managua area. Prior tothe St. Helena groups donations, local firefighters were woefully unequippedto deal with wildland fires. They had 50-foot hoses on their engines, but untilthe St. Helena group arrived they lacked the longer hoses that are needed tofight wildland fires that are far away from the nearest water source.
The U.S. embassy in Managua had to rely on the Managua fire department when itwas threatened by a fire recently. During the trip, the embassys head ofsecurity thanked the St. Helena firefighters for training the Nicaraguans. About25 firefighters were trained by the St. Helenans.
Scheideman said the Nicaraguans told them that while they receive plenty ofdonated equipment, the St. Helena group is the only one that teaches them how touse the gear safely and effectively. They also taught Nicaraguans basicfirefighting tactics like attacking the edges of a fire rather than the center.
The St. Helena firefighters used controlled burns to train the Nicaraguans, butwith winds routinely approaching 40 mph, controlled is a very loose term.
Its really inspiring to make a difference at that level, to help out agroup of people who have the same passion we do, but have no training and noresources to do their job, said Scheideman. We brought all the equipmentand showed them how to use it and work together as a team something we doall the time here, but theyd never done it before.
This wasnt the first time St. Helena firefighters have helped out theNicaraguans. Last year, Scheideman, Sorensen, Tsukroff, Garibay, GilbertoMaldonado and Napa firefighter Cesar Lopez spent six days training Nicaraguanfire and rescue personnel how to use the Jaws of Life to free passengers trappedin wrecked vehicles.
The trips are paid for entirely by private donations. This Saturday night at thefirehouse, there will be a carnitas feed to fund the Nicaraguan aid activities.The event is already sold out.