They said our heat wave last week was like a nice spring day for them.
Two firefighters from the Middle East will be living and training in Maryland for the next few months.
“My name is Saad Alharbi," said a 28-year-old lieutanant training with PGFD. He says his home temperatures are usually in the 120 degree mark this time of year.
“I know you say it’s hot,” says Alharbi’s co-worker, Saad Khaldi.
“We’re dying here!” said WUSA 9 Reporter Stephanie Ramirez.
“Yeah, but it is okay for me,” laughed Khaldi.
Alharbi and Khaldi are from Saudi Arabia and work as firefighters for Aramco, the world’s largest oil company.
They and six other colleagues are now in the county. They’re training with the Prince George’s County Fire Department under a brand new, 6-month International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Fellowship Program.
“First time for Prince George’s County,” says PGFD Assistant Chief Christian Wargo.
Khaldi says there are some immediate differences. “We don’t interact with medical but we assist in paramedic people,” he said.
PGFD does both.
“Their specific thing is to learn the American Fire culture. When we get off the unit, each person already knows their job,” said Wargo. He tells WUSA 9 the Saudi Firefighters mostly deal with oil fires. They don’t get nearly the number of home and building fires we get to gain that experience … and that experience is important.
In 2015, a building fire broke out killing 11 people and injuring at least 200 at a site used to house Aramco workers, according to the BBC. That’s what we’re told prompted the international partnership.
Funny thing is, they’re actually sharing more than engines and lines.
“At the beginning. They were in the middle of Ramadan. So a lot of our guys had never heard of Ramadan. They didn’t know anything about it. So as much as they’re learning from us, we’re learning from them and it and it helps us because then it broadens everybody’s horizon,” said Asst. Chief Wargo.
We did get to see them on a call. Khaldi says he normally drives truck but went into the building this time.
“What was it like,” we asked him as he was catching his breath by the truck. “Exciting!” said Khaldi.
The emergency call was for a fire that broke out at Kenmoor Middle School. The response involved multiple ladder engines positioned on multiple sides of the building. It was a coordinated response with very little discussion beforehand. That’s the type of training Prince George’s County hopes to share with the Saudi Firefighters, who have about another five months here in the states.
They started in San Diego, California. The plan is have about 30 Saudi Firefighters training in different stations across the country this year. The IAFC says Aramco is sponsoring the program and plans to have another 30 firefighters come in 2018 and 2019.