The Brooklyn Park Fire Department is giving a special student a crash course in firefighting 101. Sixteen-year veteran Liberian firefighter Colonel Alex Morris is here to learn all he can about American firefighting and its equipment.
"There was no gear in Liberia when we got there," says Brooklyn Park Fire Chief Ken Prillaman. "There’s no air packs, there's no hand tools. So all of that is foreign. So we're treating the colonel, despite his experience, as a new recruit."
Morris's daily activities include spending some time in a classroom or shadowing the chief. But, often, he’s riding along with crews on calls in order to get firsthand experience.
"It's just been exciting to really come over and see how great the country is, see how things are well laid out," says Morris, who will train in Brooklyn Park for seven weeks. "The kind of equipment you people have, it’s so exciting for me."
This training is part of an ongoing partnership between the Liberian National Fire Service and a nonprofit Prillaman helped form called the Fire Rescue Alliance. The nonprofit's sole purpose is to properly train and equip firefighters in Liberia. Prillaman says the ultimate goal is to get Liberia's firefighting protocol up to international standards. It's a process that could take five to eight years.
"It's a country about the size of Ohio. They still have just one working fire engine," says Prillaman. "And when you think about 'How do you protect three and a half million people, a million of them living in the capital city?’ it's a big undertaking."
Members of the Rescue Alliance are sending donated equipment and vehicles to Liberia in the fall. Chief Prillaman and others will spend some time training the firefighters. When they leave, Morris will take over.
"[Brooklyn Park firefighters] have helped me with a camera to take pictures of most of the events so that I be able to not only say to [Liberian firefighters], but be able to show to them, some of those things that I’ve learned and some of those things that I’m still learning," says Morris.
July 6, 2012