Guatemala 2013 Blog Sixteen- The Grad

GlobalFires last official duties in Guatemala are the graduation ceremony. It was held at 11 Company. The ceremony started with a speech from Director Salvador "Losh" Matheu González. He acknowledged the strong efforts by the Bomberos and how well they took to the new techniques. He explained that they need to practice and practice some more but he was very proud of each participant.

 Victor “Tito” Estuardo Flores Calvinisti had requested to speak. He was one of the students as well as one of the leaders of the group. He asked to say his words in English (Tito does not speak English so he spent many hours practicing) and did an amazing job. He was heart felt on how happy everyone was with the program and we are all fire fighters and brothers. He thanked us for taking time away from our families and to share our knowledge with them. It was the most touching and sincere speeches we had ever heard on a mission. Below are his closing remarks:

 “We will never forget the responsibility, dedication, patience and above all the friendship that each of you had with us these days.

It was an honor to have you as fire fighters of 11 Company and of all the friendly companies of fire fighters who participated in the training.

Finally, I want to wish you to have a nice trip back home and pray for blessings to you and your families.

Thank you brothers, and I call you brothers because just as brothers do all the best effort to answer a call of help from another one.”

 When he was done he was met with a standing ovation. We cannot say enough about what it meant. Thanks to you Brother !

 

Posted on September 17, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Fifteen- The Action Scene

The action scene - last day and it is scenario time. The GlobalFire team has worked hard with these fire fighters and they are ready to take some of their skills to task.

A member of the “Comité Pro-Funcionamiento de la 11va. Cia de Bomberos Voluntarios de Retalhuleu” had a property with a hotel that was never completed. He allows 11 Company to train there so it was selected as the site of the final scenario.

It was a very interesting training ground as there were cows as extras and were leaving large deposits throughout not only the grounds but in the abandoned hotel itself. The ‘craft services’ were run by a local woman whose stand was right next to the pumper. She was selling smashed torillas with salt called machitos.

The final scene was one from a disaster movie- earthquake and fire at a hotel. The plot was given to the Incident Commander and they were off- Action was called and the Bomberos went to work.

 

They did an excellent job especially since some of the skills were the first time they have used them outside the training this week. They worked on an Incident Command structure also. The equipment issues really came to light. Limited amounts of hose and very few appliances made it a challenge. At one point a hose was leaking and a Bombero had to be assigned to hold the leak to reduce water loss. More SCBAs were needed with the implementation of RIT.

 

The Bomberos worked very hard, as it was very hot and for the first day this week it did not rain.

 

The fire was extinguished, all the victims were rescued and they had success with the new skills they were taught. The Bomberos were happy with their success but stressed they must practice and practice some more to get better. It was a great way to end the class.

 

Congratulations Brothers and Sisters!

 

The Action

The Action

Job Well Done ! 

Job Well Done ! 

Posted on September 17, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Fourteen- Rescue Me

Fire fighter rescue and rapid intervention training- fire fighters saving fire fighters. This day was specifically asked for by the local officials. Like all fire fighters, everyone wants to go home at the end the day. The Bomberos may not have much personal protective equipment or other equipment to do their job but they do have the heart of a fire fighter. They want to do the best  job they can and serve the public the best they can. They have the courage and determination of all fire fighters. They also have families that want them home at the end of their shift.

The fire fighter rescue and RIT day started in the classroom. There was steady conversation about the rescue of fire fighters and the importance of RIT. The discussion was around the difficulty to save our own. With their lack of resources they wanted to maximize their effectiveness with what they had. GlobalFire introduced to them two donated RIT Kits for them. Much of the morning session was dedicated to the RIT Kit and how to supply air to a downed fire fighter.

The other skills were a combination of drags and carries, up and down stairs, RIT haul systems, fire fighter assessment and deployment of RIT.

Deployment of RIT was a very interesting session. Teams were sent in to save a fellow fire fighter. Each scenario offered a challenge and each team would respond to it. In one evolution the crew was blacked out and traveled 60 feet to a downed fire fighter and then there was a structural collapse and the teams had to evacuate to save themselves. The Bomberos were asked to help simulate the collapse. They got plastic chairs and tables and made it rain debris on the evacuating crew.  The spectating Bomberos yelled and hollered and made a few noises that we are sure the locals were familiar with but to us it was very unique. After this first evolution it was announced that they all had to do the skills and what they did to the first group would be paid back. We find out that is what they wanted - they wanted it to be difficult- they want to train hard as they want to save fire fighters.

 

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Posted on September 14, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Thirteen- Mid term report

Day three of training was all fire ground survival. It was just over an eleven hour day and the students would have kept going. We started the day in the classroom reviewing fire ground survival topics such as MAYDAY, evacuation, air management, safety size-up etc.

As all fire fighters they were again anxious to get to the hands on and FGS day is a tough one. Skills taught were upper floor emergency egress (ladder bails and hose slide), wire entanglement, scba low profile escapes, scba reduced profile escapes and window hang. They finished the day with a scba confidence maze.

The props that were built at no cost worked out great. The entanglement prop (that was finished by the local Bomberos) was rather aggressive in its design for a first time user. But it was conquered by the Bomberos and to finish the day, the Bombero who had lost his arm in the ambulance accident completed the prop successfully with a large round of cheers and applause. The support for this fire fighter throughout the program has been an example of a true brotherhood.

The ladder bails and hose slide were new techniques for them. Each Bombero tackled these skills with much gusto. They probably would have spent the day jumping out the second floor window but they had sights on the other skills.

The scba profile skill station was rather interesting as there were so many different body types. That did not stop any of them.

The confidence maze was the finale. It was a combination of all the skills they learned that day plus a couple of surprises set up as an obstacle course. To top it off when they tackled the course they could not see. Some had to black out their scba face pieces and some had to wear black goggles. As true firefighters an unknown Bombero put shoe polish on the outer edges of the goggles- so all wearers had black all over their faces and combined with the sweat made one very large eyebrow. What an experience! We made it optional as it was now almost five pm. and was very hot. The line up started, the cheering ramped up and off they went. One after another they passed around the available six steel cylinder scbas - some functional and some not- and they went aggressively into the obstacles. Each trying to be better than the one before. The cheering got louder and the smoke from the neighbours cooking fire got thicker in the humid and windless air. It kind of set the mood for survival.

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Job well done! 

Job well done! 

Posted on September 14, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Twelve- Cast of Characters- Parte numero dos

Edgar Alfredo “Freddy” Ralda Gamboa, 43 years old, 18 years in the fire service as a volunteer, he’s Oficial II

Edgar Alfredo “Freddy” Ralda Gamboa, 43 years old, 18 years in the fire service as a volunteer, he’s Oficial II

Victor “Tito” Estuardo Flores Calvinisti, 56 years old, 2nd year as a volunteer, he is also an agricultor  

Victor “Tito” Estuardo Flores Calvinisti, 56 years old, 2nd year as a volunteer, he is also an agricultor

 

Luís Fernando “Chupa” García, 25 years old, 7 years in the fire service, he’s a permanente, a paramedic and he also takes care of the equipment in the station    

Luís Fernando “Chupa” García, 25 years old, 7 years in the fire service, he’s a permanente, a paramedic and he also takes care of the equipment in the station

 

 

Ludvin “Paleta” Yoc, 21 years old. It’s his second year as a volunteer.  He was seriously injured in an vehicle accident while driving an ambulance. He was returning from a call on December 25, 2012 after driving a pregnant woman to the hospital.  His ambulance was hit by a drunk driver and rolled over. He lost his arm in the accident. After he recovered he returned to the fire service.  

Ludvin “Paleta” Yoc, 21 years old. It’s his second year as a volunteer.  He was seriously injured in an vehicle accident while driving an ambulance. He was returning from a call on December 25, 2012 after driving a pregnant woman to the hospital.  His ambulance was hit by a drunk driver and rolled over. He lost his arm in the accident. After he recovered he returned to the fire service.

 

Rolando José de Léon Ardón, 24 years old, 3 years in the fire service, 2nd year as a permanente.  He’s a driver and also does water rescue.  


Rolando José de Léon Ardón, 24 years old, 3 years in the fire service, 2nd year as a permanente.  He’s a driver and also does water rescue.

 

José Luís Salanic García, 37 years old, 10 years with the 96 Company, Cantél, Quetzaltenango.  He’s a permanente on a 24 hour shift (24 hours on, 24 hours off).  He is often the only fire fighter on duty at the station.  When possible, 2 volunteers work the night shift with him.  They have very little equipment.  

José Luís Salanic García, 37 years old, 10 years with the 96 Company, Cantél, Quetzaltenango.  He’s a permanente on a 24 hour shift (24 hours on, 24 hours off).  He is often the only fire fighter on duty at the station.  When possible, 2 volunteers work the night shift with him.  They have very little equipment.

 

Posted on September 13, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Eleven- The excitement continues

Everyday brings a new adventure for the GlobalFire team. While conducting hands on training this afternoon during the daily afternoon storm a fire dispatch came through. It was a reported house fire in San Sebastian, which is a neighbouring town.  What was unusual about it was that all the Bomberos were in the station. They had a full response available and not enough apparatus to take them all.

Two GlobalFire members attended the incident with the Company 11 "Oficial II". The response time was approximately 15 minutes and they were one of the first fire vehicles on scene. The address added some difficulties as it was not on a street but down a lane between two houses. The house was not even visible from the street.

Upon arrival at the house the fire had been mostly extinguished by the resident and it was contained in one room on the first floor. The house was concrete with no roof on the second floor. The walls were approximately one foot thick and that contained the fire. The room was still very hot as the windows were small and offered very little ventilation. If this house was made of wood like most of the neighbour's houses, this very well could have been a full structure fire.

The Bomberos removed all the debris and overhauled as best they could. They have only one ventilation fan and it was in for repairs. The GlobalFire team had paid for the fan to be sent out for a complete overhaul as it had not worked in sometime.

Before clearing, a few minutes were taken to review the incident with the Bomberos. The previous days training was discussed and how it might have been utilized in the event this was a full structure fire.

The crowd that had gathered was large. When asked the "Oficial II" stated this is a usual occurrence. When asked if he could back up the crowd he said it might be dangerous to do without Police.

The Bomberos doing their job! 

The Bomberos doing their job! 

The crowd watching the Bomberos doing their job! 

The crowd watching the Bomberos doing their job! 

The debrief afterwards- proving they are great learners and thirsty for more and more info. 

The debrief afterwards- proving they are great learners and thirsty for more and more info. 

Returning to quarters! 

Returning to quarters! 

Posted on September 11, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Ten- The cast of characters

This is some of the cast of characters we are working with this week

Salvador "Losh" Matheu González, 38 years old, fire fighter since 1997, 2 years as a Director. He is the boss.  

Salvador "Losh" Matheu González, 38 years old, fire fighter since 1997, 2 years as a Director. He is the boss.

 

Luís Roberto “Popeye” Marroquín Torres, 35 years old, 15 years in the fire service, 2 years as the Jefe de la Estación  

Luís Roberto “Popeye” Marroquín Torres, 35 years old, 15 years in the fire service, 2 years as the Jefe de la Estación

 

Oscar “Pinta Araña” (Painting Spider because he also paints cars) de León López, 40 years old, 19 years in the fire service, permanente, Jefe de Servicio  

Oscar “Pinta Araña” (Painting Spider because he also paints cars) de León López, 40 years old, 19 years in the fire service, permanente, Jefe de Servicio

 

Baudilio “Enano” (Dwarf) Aguilar Ortiz, 47 years old, 22 years in the fire service, he’s permanente, he’s a driver, paramedic, carpenter and scuba diver  

Baudilio “Enano” (Dwarf) Aguilar Ortiz, 47 years old, 22 years in the fire service, he’s permanente, he’s a driver, paramedic, carpenter and scuba diver

 

Melvin Estuardo “Medio Beso” (Half Kiss) Espada Ixcoy, 34 years old, 9 years in the fire service, permanente, galonista, paramedic  

Melvin Estuardo “Medio Beso” (Half Kiss) Espada Ixcoy, 34 years old, 9 years in the fire service, permanente, galonista, paramedic  

José Mario Díaz Minera, 21 years old, 2 ½ years as a volunteer, studying medicine  

José Mario Díaz Minera, 21 years old, 2 ½ years as a volunteer, studying medicine

 

Marina “Mari” Alejos Torsellí, 43 years old, 2 ½ years as a volunteer, Sub-Directora for 1 year, she’s also an optometrist and a translator  

Marina “Mari” Alejos Torsellí, 43 years old, 2 ½ years as a volunteer, Sub-Directora for 1 year, she’s also an optometrist and a translator

 

Hector Valiente, 54 years old, 13 years in the fire service, permanente, driver  

Hector Valiente, 54 years old, 13 years in the fire service, permanente, driver  

José Javier Quevedo Fernández, 14 years old, one year as a volunteer, he’s in college studying medicine  

José Javier Quevedo Fernández, 14 years old, one year as a volunteer, he’s in college studying medicine

 

Fabiola Portillo Gaetán, 34 years old, 9 years as a volunteer, she is also a nurse    

Fabiola Portillo Gaetán, 34 years old, 9 years as a volunteer, she is also a nurse

 

 

Carlos Humberto “Beavis” Sandoval Fuentes, 17 years old, has been a volunteer for 1 year and 3 months, he’s a senior in school, wants to live in the US for a year to perfect his English then come back to Guatemala to study medicine  
Carlos Humberto “Beavis” Sandoval Fuentes, 17 years old, has been a volunteer for 1 year and 3 months, he’s a senior in school, wants to live in the US for a year to perfect his English then come back to Guatemala to study medicine

 

Damaris Aleyda Castillo Flores, 39 years old, 5 years a volunteer, she also works in a hospital  
Damaris Aleyda Castillo Flores, 39 years old, 5 years a volunteer, she also works in a hospital

 

Posted on September 11, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Nine- Back to school

The GlobalFire team has started classes.  We have 45 Bomberos from all over the province of Retalhuleu.  They have shown up eager to learn and their gratitude is overwhelming at times.  As we get to know them more it is very apparent that fire fighters are the same, no matter where they come from.  They wear their uniforms with pride. 

The one big difference however is the equipment - their personal protective equipment.  The bunker suits are old and tattered.  Mostly hand me downs from other departments - with the original wearers name still on the coat - unless the Guatemala Bombero's name is Gibbon or Peterson.  Gloves are rare - fire gloves scarce.  No flash hoods at all and very few fire boots.  Before a practical session today a fire fighter was fixing a hole in the toe of his boot by taping it.  Helmets were a wide selection with one being a hard hat with a Bombero sticker on the front and a chin strap.

There is always difficulty with instruction and translation but this has been a little easier as all of our translators are fire fighters.

We spent the first day in the classroom doing some basic fire fighting curriculum such as fire behaviour, size-up, fire control, reading smoke and ventilation.  In the morning the officers were broken away and taken for an Incident Management program.  They had no system in place and with what we witnessed at the mass casualty incident it might be beneficial. 

Day two was a little of in the classroom but the rest on the fire ground.  Like most fire fighters they were ready to hit some hands on training.  The Bomberos got hands on work with deploying and advancing a hose line, hose load and bundles, water streams, exterior and interior fire attack with door control.  They all participated and asked lots of questions trying to get more info. 

The heat was brutal and the usual afternoon heavy rains rolled through.  They did not cool the day but certainly did get everyone a little wetter. 

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Posted on September 10, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Eight- The cupboards are bare

As mentioned earlier, one of the memories we will have from this mission is opening up the compartments on the apparatus and finding them bare. Even the ambulance has little or no supplies. They clean and recycle used medical supplies such as stiffnecks and bag valve masks. Their passion for their job is obvious as after a medical call they are back in the "cuarto de desinfeccion" cleaning and disinfecting for the next dispatch.

Posted on September 10, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Seven- When it rains it pours!

While in country the GlobalFire team has encountered  a mass casualty incident and an earthquake. Now some flooding? Apparently the city was not hit as hard as just south of us but it rained and stormed here furiuosly . The thunder you could feel throughout your body.  


Posted on September 9, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Six- You build it- They will come

One of the dilemmas that the GlobalFire team has on every capacity building operation is training props. The departments do not have them and in most countries where the team goes building supplies are scarce or expensive. The money we save on props puts more equipment on fire apparatus. We still must construct props for the training so we have to be creative.

Posted on September 8, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Five- The Wish List

The GlobalFire Team went through all the equipment of Company 11. – One a side bar- one of the things that will stick in all the GlobalFire Team members memories of this mission was opening all the compartments on the apparatus to find most of them empty or with equipment that is either broken or nearly obsolete. The team did compare the needs of the Bomberos with the donated equipment being shipped from Canada (which is still tied up in Panama)to make a perspective shopping list.

Posted on September 8, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Four- Shaken not stirred

On Friday as GlobalFire team members were winding the day down at the fire station a truly unexpected event hit. As the team was unloading supplies from a pick-up truck the ground started to shake. Those standing on the street really felt the  movement. A quick scan of the street showed no large vehicles going by. Then one of the Bombero translators yelled to exit the building and stay clear of all wires. Looking up as the earth continued to shake and gain momentum, the fire station steel roof was swaying back and forth. All the fire apparatus were moving violently, diving down on their suspensions. People on the street were running. It lasted for an unspecified amount of time as time seemed to slow right down. We just had an earthquake, a 6.6 earthquake

Posted on September 7, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog Three- The Ride-outs

The GlobalFire team is touring the fire station and the dispatch room. The dispatch phone rings and it is a response for a car accident near by. The firefighters leave and three GlobalFire members go for the ride-out.  They arrive within a few minutes as the roads are narrow and traffic is very congested. The accident is a tuk-tuk (motorcycle taxi) that t-boned a car, there were four injured mostly in the tuk-tuk. The injuries were serious but non-life threatening and required transport to hospital. GlobalFire members assisted with assessment, stabilization and transport of the patients. The team went to the hospital to off load and returned to station.

 

Posted on September 7, 2013 .

Guatemala 2013 Blog One- The Journey

Our GlobalFire team made it safely to Retalhuleu. We landed in Guatemala City by way of Panama City. Got all 12 bags through customs although there were some strange looks. In the bags were extinguishers, air cylinders, axes, haligan tools and other assorted donated items for the Retalhuleu Bomberos

Posted on September 6, 2013 .