Firefighters are one of Colorado’s most valuable resources. That's clear by how often they travel to help other departments around the country, lending skills in battling wildland fires or helping in hurricane relief. They’re used to traveling for work. But a group of five firemen from Denver Fire and South Metro returned from a trip earlier this month that - at one time - was unfathomable to them.
Joe Seastone is a firefighter for Denver Fire based out of Station 23. He said he and four others traveled to Kenya to train firefighters there.
“We trained all the firefighters in tactical firefighting,” he explained. During the course of two weeks, he and his colleagues in coordination with Africa Fire Mission taught Kenyans search and rescue, ladder techniques, hose and fire attack strategies.
Jon’s made this trip last year. It was his first year in the program, and he saw an opportunity to help it grow.
“I went out with three other people and we were overwhelmed by the amount of people we had, and all of the training they wanted us to cover,” he said.
With a better understanding of the program, Jon and his colleagues said they went back this year more prepared for the program.
“The biggest challenge is figuring out how to approach this training on the fly,” said Denver Fireman Sean Toomey.
He made the trip for the first time in 2018 after hearing about Jon’s experience.
“In a short period of time, you have to go to another country, familiarize yourself with the equipment that they have - then come up with a game plan to put some training in place in a way that it’s digestible for everybody,” Sean explained.
Jon and Sean worked with students from all over Kenya, but most were from the country’s capital city, Nairobi.
“In Nairobi, they have 150 firefighters and three stations to cover a city of 5 million people,” Jon said. “In Denver, we have 40 fire stations and over a thousand firefighters.”
The Kenyan’s were hungry for the knowledge and experience these Colorado firefighters were giving them, Jon said. He added that he hopes his students will share what they’ve learned.
"[We hope to] really give them something that they can take back to their own fire department and teach other firefighters, and hopefully that’s how you build the sustainability of their fire services,” Jon said.