By Charles Hallman
A group of Minneapolis firefighters and others are now in Kenya to provide firefighting training. Two city firefighters and a mechanic, along with several others, left last Saturday, January 8, for Eldoret, Kenya to train city workers in firefighting and how to use and maintain a 31,000-pound fire truck that was donated to them last year.
“It is gratifying that a Black nation can benefit from some of the assets that Minneapolis has,” Meet Minneapolis CEO Melvin Tennant told the MSR after a January 7 send-off ceremony for the group at a downtown fire station.
Eldoret has been one of Minneapolis’ “sister cities” since 2000. It is a city of approximately 220,000 people. Several years ago, a tragic fire took place that destroyed a church because the city’s only fire truck was stationed at the airport and couldn’t leave. An Eldoret delegation subsequently visited Minneapolis in 2008 and asked now-Fire Chief Alex Jackson if the department had any extra equipment they could possibly donate.
“When they came to meet us in 2008, I was the interim chief,” recalled Jackson. “They expressed a need, and we knew that we could meet the need.”
City officials partnered with the International Leadership Institute to donate a retired 1988 pumper truck, which was eventually loaded on a flatbed truck and transported to Baltimore, then transported from there to a freighter and shipped to Mombasa, Kenya. The truck arrived in port six weeks later, where Eldoret officials picked it up and drove it to their city.
“Chief Jackson has been a leader” in this effort, said retired Judge LaJune Lange, who is part of the 10-person delegation that left last week. The City of Eldoret is paying all travel expenses.
“I am [also] sending my assistant chief, an engineering official and one of our engineers,” added Jackson. “I will be joining them in about a week to assess the emergency response team as well as join them in the graduation ceremony.”
Eldoret public works employees who also double as firefighters will be receiving firefighting training, which will include extricating and rescuing victims and fire prevention as well as truck maintenance and mechanical training.
“This has been in preparation for over two years,” said the chief.
Lange and MSR Co-Publisher Emeritus Wallace Jackman are members of the delegation that left last week. Jackman said he first met the then-mayor of Eldoret a few years ago during a visit to Minneapolis. “He stayed at our house,” Jackman said. “We started talking about their needs, and he told me they needed fire trucks and ambulances.”
Eldoret having just one fire truck “is the equivalent of Minneapolis only having one fire truck that services not only Minneapolis but [also] Robbinsdale, Brooklyn Center and the surrounding suburbs,” explained Jackson, who told the MSR that Eldoret now also has an ambulance.
Allina Hospitals and Clinics donated the ambulance to the Kenyan city. “It’s in route right now as we speak,” said Chief Jackson. “We think it will get there while we are there.”
Jackson said, however, that he is the only Black firefighter on this trip. “I wanted to send another African American firefighter, but Eldoret did not have the funds to send him.”
“We want to do three [training sessions],” said the chief. “We are planning a second trip in June, and I don’t know if [for] the third [session] we will be going there or they will be sending some of their firefighters to us. We believe that after we do this first wave of training and they see what we can do, it will be easier to get the funding to send more [firefighters] next time.”
“I am just pleased that we are involved with Eldoret as a sister city,” said Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels, who sits on the council’s public service committee.
“It’s good to be able to meet a need,” concluded Jackson at the send-off. “The gratitude they have shown for the fire truck has been overwhelming. I am very proud as fire chief of the City of Minneapolis to be in this partnership with them.”
The group is expected to return to Minneapolis on January 25.
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