Bomberos head to town for firefighting tips

Firefighters — bomberos, in Spanish — are preparing to lend a hand to a couple of their counterparts from south of the border this week.

A pair of visiting firefighters from Michoacan, Mexico, are scheduled to arrive in Redwood City today for a week of intense training on modern firefighting techniques.

They are part of Bomberos 2010, in which Peninsula and South Bay fire departments host a total of 22 firefighters from Mexico and South America as they learn about vehicle extrication, incident command, hazardous materials and disaster preparedness.

“It’s good for us to build a relationship with these different cities, and bottom line is hopefully they learn something and make sure they’re safe when they operate out in the field,” Redwood City Fire Department Capt. Ernesto Gomez said.

Many firefighters from Latin American countries are volunteers, don’t get much training and are using antiquated equipment, Gomez said.

At a series of training sessions in San Jose, the visitors will learn modern firefighting techniques that they can apply to their work back home.

For example, because fire departments in Latin America may not have access to extrication equipment like the Jaws of Life, the firefighters will learn how to open up a burning car using crow bars and other tools, Gomez said.

For a send-off Friday, the San Francisco Fire Department has agreed to let the visitors go out on a fire boat and ride around on the Bay, Gomez said.

It’s not the first time Redwood City firefighters have hosted their Mexican counterparts. In April, firefighters from the sister city of Colima came for training and to learn about how to use a fire engine that the city donated.

Alpio Barbara, the owner of Redwood General Tire, is helping to cover the costs of the visiting firefighters’ stay and planning to round up some junk cars for the firefighters to practice on.

“I think it’s a great program,” Barbara said. “What I’m hoping they’re going to do is train like our guys do, because our guys, they’re the best in the business.”

Agencies participating in Bomberos 2010

– San Jose Fire Department
– Santa Clara Fire Department
– Santa Clara County Fire Department
– Milpitas Fire Department
– Sunnyvale Fire Department
– Mountain View Fire Department
– Palo Alto Fire Department
– Redwood City Fire Department

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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