On December 3, 2019 a group of seven firefighters, from different fire departments all throughout the Republic of Iraq, met with Emergency Responders from the Prescott Fire Department, Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority (CAFMA), the Yavapai County Emergency Manager and Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, Rowle Simmons and Thomas Thurman, to discuss firefighting techniques, funding issues and training concerns.
The U.S. State Department facilitated this exchange through the International Visitor Leadership Program. The U.S. Embassy in Iraq selected these seven leaders from Fire Departments throughout Iraq and arranged for them to spend three weeks traveling the United States, learning and sharing with fellow firefighters. They spent a week in DC, a week here in Arizona, and are off to Michigan next and then finally New York.
Yavapai County Emergency Manager Ron Sauntman started the meeting by introducing the group of men to the fundamentals of how Emergency Management works in Yavapai County. Ron explained that Emergency Management is primarily a support service for a diverse group of frontline emergency response organizations that function within Yavapai County.
The City of Prescott, Deputy Fire Chief, Cory Moser began a discussion on how the City of Prescott’s Fire Department works in cooperation with fellow Fire Districts and then CAFMA Chief, Scott Freitag followed up with specifics on how resources are shared and training facilities utilized.
Yavapai County Board of Supervisor Thomas Thurman concluded the conversation by explaining the role the Board of Supervisors plays in support of Emergency Management and the safety and security of Yavapai County as a whole.
After the discussion, a time of question and answer took place and several questions exploring the similarities and differences between fighting fires in Bagdad AZ and Baghdad Iraq were discussed. Some of the biggest differences that came to light were the number of staff working at each fire station. Here in Yavapai County it is not uncommon to have 6-8 men and women working one shift, while in Iraq, 40-60 people will work one location during one shift. The question was posed by the Baghdad Airport Fire Chief, “What do you do if your entire crew is called out to a rural fire and another fire starts right next to your station?” The answer came from Chief, Scott Freitag, “We get coverage from other stations but that does sometimes mean a delay in getting to the second fire.” Chief Freitag went on to explain the “Reliability Ratio” or how often an engine is at its base location when it is called out to a fire. An acceptable percentage is 80% or higher. When the reliability number falls below that, they know they are in need of additional resources.
The Iraq firefighters came from a variety of positions including the Fire Chief for the City of Baghdad as well as the Fire Chief for the Baghdad Airport. Each man had an opportunity to both ask and answer questions during the discussion utilizing the translators provided by the State Department.
After the question and answer time, the men went outside to examine the equipment that had been brought to the meeting and showed special interest in the hazmat apparatus. Before the firefighters went their own way, they all stood in front of the hazmat truck for several group photos, expressed thanks for the time and the resources shared, and promised to stay in touch.