John Ballantyne

Firefighters leap hurdles in Lima, Peru

'... when the firefighters arrive in the ambulance first, before the engine, people will throw rocks because they want to see the firetruck'

In his final days in Arequipa, Peru, Oak Bay firefighter Ballantyne faced his largest class, about 30 Peruvian firefighters. His final session there focused on incident command with examples to share from the previous day’s 70-bomberos (Peruvian firefighter) fire.

“It is very rewarding to look into the class and see people [who are] reacting negatively on what is presented and then [be able] to explain and give examples of how an Incident Command System or Accountability System relates to their job and how important it is,” he said. “We had various chiefs in the class and they all agreed with how the lessons we were teaching would assist their organization and firefighter safety.”

Ballantyne is set to return May 20 from his volunteer trip with Firefighters Without Borders Canada. After a few days teaching the volunteer bomberos of Arequipa he returned to Lima where classes had been cancelled.

“It looks like Lima is a go now, the whole team is together. We will have classes in Incident Command and equipment maintenance,” Ballantyne wrote in an email. “We got a big boost today by visiting the U.S. embassy and had a meeting with the people responsible for Humanitarian Assistance.”

The volunteers hit many roadblocks since arriving in Peru, however, those at the embassy shared experience with similar hurdles, and strategies to overcome them.

“It is the same common problems throughout Latin America,” said Ballantyne. “For example you arrange everything, then people in positions change and nothing is transferred. This is what happened in Lima.”

Every day the team of 13 Canadians and Americans taught classes in Peru, added to the two embassy visits.

“The Americans, hands down, thought our embassy were the better hosts. We met with the ambassador then we had a meet and greet social with all the staff,” Ballantyne said.

His final teaching commitment was Wednesday. Tuesday night, they went over the role of the safety officer.

“They definitely have some unique safety concerns down here. One of the issues that came up is that sometimes the police won’t come for scene security due to it being too dangerous. Another issue is when the firefighters arrive in the ambulance first, before the engine, people will throw rocks because they want to see the firetruck. Slightly different than Oak Bay,” Ballantyne said.

“It’s been a great adventure. … It’s great when the class ends and you get a standing ovation and everyone shakes your hand. … All the effort is worth it and I believe that we have made a difference.”

 

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