Eight firefighters/chiefs from the Gyeongbuk Province of South Korea visited West Hartford on Sept. 12.
By Ronni Newton
The process of conducting investigations and obtaining certification as a fire inspector were just some of the aspects of West Hartford Fire Department operations and tactics that were of interest to a delegation of eight members of the South Korean fire service from the Gyeongbuk Province of South Korea who visited West Hartford last week.
The group represented each of the eight cities/towns in Gyeongbuk Province. They group included firefighters as well as chiefs.
“It’s not uncommon for firefighters to stop by another town or city’s fire station just to say hello. That said, we are not often faced with a request to host an international delegation of firefighters and fire officials,” said West Hartford Chief Greg Priest.
“It took some preparation and vetting of the request but we embraced this opportunity to discuss our structure and operations as well as to learn about how the South Korean fire service operates.” The delegation was touring the Northeast, and in addition to West Hartford visited Boston, MA, and Albany, NY, sharing and exchanging ideas about procedures and tactics.
Mayor Shari Cantor and Town Council member Carol Blanks, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, also met with the South Korean group.
“We navigated through the differences in language quickly through the use of an interpreter to find out that – despite our agencies offering fire/rescue services on the other side of the world from each other – we had a lot in common. It was a humbling experience that they chose West Hartford as part of their tour and it was an honor to represent our community and country alongside our mayor, Councilor Blanks, and several of our fire personnel,” said Priest.
The first stop was the department headquarters at 95 Raymond Road, where in addition to Priest, Cantor, and Blanks, the delegation met with Assistant Chief Hugh O’Callaghan, Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal Bob Grimaldi, Office Operations Specialist Melinda McKeown, Deputy Chief Bill Beebe, EMS Officer Lt. Rocco Laudato, Community Services Officer and Firefighter Paramedic Andrew Eccles, and Emergency Management Specialist Mike Perruccio.
From headquarters, the delegation was escorted to Station 2 on Brace Road. Deputy Chief Keith Albert, the day’s shift commander and Station 2 shift supervisor Lt. Ben Coker provided a station tour as well as equipment displays.
Among the processes of great interest to the South Korean delegation – the majority of whom were fire investigators – centered on certifications to become and maintain fire inspector status, laws regarding investigations, evidence collection and testing, and who was responsible for investigations and timelines. Grimaldi was able to provide the responses to their questions.
“The chief of the provincial department provided us with a beautiful shadowbox with South Korean masks which we will proudly display at Fire Headquarters as a reminder of their visit,” Priest said.
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