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General News

President of Volunteers Firefighters of Greece Talks about Their Training in the U.S.

November 22, 2022

BOSTON – Sixteen volunteer firefighters from Greece were trained recently for one week in the Union Fire District of Rhode Island. In an interview with The National Herald the President of the Panhellenic Association of volunteers firefighters of Greece, Seraphim Tsiougris, said that “the recent fire training in Union Fire District, RI, follows three previous trainings with the first one being in 2011. My honeymoon trip in Boston and my visit to local fire stations in 2010 was the reason I discovered the Union Fire District Training Center and met its firefighting staff, and this was the beginning, leading to the training of Greek Volunteer Firefighters. At the same time, a meeting the then-Supreme President of AHEPA, Dr John Grossomanidis, led to AHEPA sponsoring three of the four fire trainings. This fire training center is one of the most modern ones in the U.S.A., and the facilities as well as equipment and materials used, along with the instructors who teach at the training, play a contributing role to our preference.”

Tsiougris further explained that “the fire training that takes place includes structure fires (scenarios of fires in houses, apartments, basements, etc). The main parts of the training are: a) Search and Rescue in a burning building, b) Extinguishment of the fire, and 3) Room Ventilation. All these are done in real time with live burning. Furthermore, we learn how to operate and intervene as a team, aiming at the safe ending of the fire incident.”

A commemorative photo of the group of the sixteen volunteers firefighters from Greece with the Greek Flag at their training Station in Rhode Island. (Photo provided by Seraphim Tsiougris)

Speaking about their American colleagues he said that, “the hospitality and love of our American colleagues is unforgettable. The brotherhood and sisterhood among firefighters around the world is something well known, yet, experiencing it is something you can never forget.”

Asked how he feels every time he puts out a fire completely or gets it under control, he said, “extinguishing a fire always leaves a sense of accomplishment, having fought with an unexpected phenomenon successfully. Especially when you manage to save a human life or the property of a person, or save a forest from a destructive fire, the feelings that a firefighter has cannot be expressed in just a few words.”

Regarding the immediate needs of the volunteers, Tsiougris said, “the immediate needs that Greek volunteer firefighters have had for years is for personal protective equipment (PPE). After a recent donation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, a part of this donation, with the support of the former President of the Hellenic Republic Mr. Prokopios Pavlopoulos, went to the volunteer firefighters and covered part of the needs. However, there are still serious needs which can be covered only if the Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection and the Hellenic Fire Service headquarters understand the significant role that volunteer firefighters can play in the protection of local communities and in Greece in General.”

The Sixteen volunteers firefighters from Greece during a training session with real fire in Rhode Island.
(Photo provided by Seraphim Tsiougris)

Speaking about the biggest difficulties in approaching a fire, whether in a highly populated area in a big city or in a deserted field, he said that, “in both of these cases, the difficulty of approaching the fire with fire trucks can add more problems, apart from what is expected during a fire incident. The factors include the response time, the difficulties in the fire line while extinguishing the fire, and especially in a forest fire, the weather circumstances play an important role in determining how it will evolve. It is important that the staff have the proper training to deal with any difficulty.”

Regarding his relationship with the Greek-American Community he said, “my first cousins live in New York and I have personally visited the U.S.A. a lot of times. Having lived in Toronto, Canada, I have a clear opinion about the Greeks abroad. Their love for the homeland and the promotion of Greece through their activities is a proof of how important Greece and its history is for Greeks abroad. We believe that our next visit will be in two- or three-year’s time. Finally, I would like to thank your historic newspaper for its support and I would like to thank the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation for its sponsorship, through which this fire training expedition became a reality.”

 

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