Scott Hanselman

Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 21 - The Arusha Fire Brigade

December 21, '06 Comments [4] Posted in Africa
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CIMG6679My father was a firefighter in Portland for 30 years. He's retired now, but there's a bond between firefolks, he believes, and he loves to meet other firefighters and chat. I took dad with me to New Orleans in 2003(?) for TechEd and he immediately wanted to talk to the local Fire Department and compare equipment and such. Since this was the first trip out of the US for Dad, I thought it'd be cool to stop by the Arusha Fire Brigade and see what was up. That's my dad on the left, and my brother-in-law (our translator) on the far right.

A few days after we arrived, there was a large fire a few streets over and we saw the tanker truck (with about 900 liters) loping towards the fire. Just yesterday a man in a car was crushed and killed and two pedestrians lost their legs as a large truck's brakes failed and it smashed out of control into a wall just at the corner down the street from where we are staying. In the first case the Fire Brigade could respond, but there doesn't appear to be any emergency medical specialization. My dad was an EMT specialist and trainer for a number of years towards the end of his career, and my brother, also a Portland Firefighter, is a capable EMT-type, IMHO. The police responded to the multiple-death accident, but it is out of the scope of the Fire Brigade here, it seems.

Dad was just hoping to chat, see their setup and swap stories, but was pretty sad about the state of things. They just don't have the equipment to do their jobs correctly. Their helmets were donated from France and Denmark and appear to be pretty old. Their truck was donated from Demark, but the tires are bald and it is in a state of some disrepair. Their hoses are similar in type and size to those my dad is used to, with their primary host being 2.5" thick, but they are frayed and could break under enough pressure. My dad was the most distressed that they have no gloves or heavy jackets. Some fight fires in sandals because they have no good work shoes. Running a hose is hard enough, but running one without gloves is challenging to say the list.

It's clear, despite the language barrier, that these guys are serious about doing their job, and only wish they had the equipment. Of course, you can't help everyone in the world and there's lots of good causes, but...now that we've got a personal contact now with this Fire Brigade and relatives on the ground locally, if you're a firefighter (or know some, forward this post) and think your department might want to donate some gloves, boots, helmets, hoses, foam, or whatever etc, email me and cc: my dad (he's dave at this domain). Apparently the Tanzanian government will pay the shipping and handle duties and make sure the donated things get where they need to smoothly.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Friday, December 22, 2006 8:59:20 AM UTC
Hi Scott

My dad was a firefighter too. Actually, he ended up as chief of the local fire brigade in my home town. Alas, he never got to be retired, he died from a heart attack when he was 61. By then he had been a firefighter for about 33 years.

My father became a member of the local fire brigade around the time when I was born. Although he was a carpenter by trade, firefighting was where his heart was. In my hometown, the fire brigade mostly consisted of part-time firefighters, i.e. they had a normal job and would then be called on when a fire broke out and that was what my dad started out as. Eventually he became assistant chief and when the old chief died unexpectedly, my dad was offered the job. He took a heavy pay-cut but it was what he wanted to do most of all - and that is the most magnificent lesson he ever taught me: follow your heart.

Being a carpenter and not an engineer, there was lot he needed to learn, especially about handling dangerous chemicals (chemical spills is the responsibility of the fire brigades in Denmark). Even though he left school at the age of 15, he went at it with a will and thus set another great example: You can teach an old dog new tricks if it really wants to. Which is why I at 50 am still learning new things every day.

My dad also made it a point to visit the local fire brigade when he went somewhere. So yes, I think your dad is right - there is a bond between firefighters.

Please pass on my greetings to your dad. It's good to have a dad that was a firefighter :-)

Thanks for sharing that story. Although they are never far away, it brought back fond memories of my dad. Also, I wish you and your family a merry Xmas and a happy new year.
Ebbe Kristensen
Friday, December 22, 2006 5:13:59 PM UTC
Thanks for the enlightening article and info on how we can help these people be safer in their own environment. In a day or two, I'm going to see about contacting your dad and try and get our FD here to donate equipment. It may be tough though, as we live in northern Colorado and continuously battle forest fires and are always in need of this equipment ourselves. But even if it's one jacket, helmet or boots, it's one more piece of the proplem solved. All too often we overlook these needs of the people in these areas and concentrate on mostly medical and other humanitarian issues, all with equal importance as this. Thank you, Scott!
John Baughman
Friday, December 22, 2006 5:18:29 PM UTC
Ok, reading the article (again), I'll email you AND your dad and see how and who I should contact at my local FD. I'm not a firefighter, but I have known a few in the past, as well as police officers, and having the right tools for the job is one of the most important things they need.
John Baughman
Friday, December 22, 2006 6:28:08 PM UTC
My wife is a firefighter/emt for our local town, I'll see what they might be willing to donate and email your Dad when I find out.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.