Taiwanese firefighters train in Pa., visit York City
York City's fire department had some international visitors recently.
Firefighters from Taiwan stopped by to trade stories about working in their respective countries after training Dec. 2-6 in Harrisburg at the Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) fire academy.
York City Deputy Fire Chief Chad Deardorff was lead instructor, providing rapid intervention training — which involves a team of firefighters dedicated solely to the firefighters inside a structure.
"That is something they do not have in Taiwan, " Deardorff said. "Two years ago, they had six firefighters killed in a collapse."
Deardorff said the Taiwanese firefighters were doing some research and saw studies of how the training had been successful.
They knew a fellow firefighter, Hsien-Yu Chu, from their country who had taken classes with HACC, and he helped connect them with the program.
Eight came for the training, and Chu accompanied them as a translator.
"It was good to compare some stories and hear what they go through," said York City Fire Chief David Michaels.
He said he learned about some differences in the fire-service culture.
American firefighters have traditional-looking helmets and gear, while the Taiwanese have more of a modern look, he said, and their buildings are constructed differently, which affects how they work.
Deardorff explained that Taiwanese buildings are all concrete and metal, so the structure won't burn, even if what's inside will.
Because there's a lower risk of collapse, their firefighters can take time for a more methodical search of the building rather than doing a quick search first and going back a second time for a more-involved search, as American firefighters do.
But they also cannot cut holes in their metal roofs for vertical ventilation.
"We showed them some things, and we learned some things," Deardorff said.
The Americans learned about different patterns of going through buildings and how firefighters in Taiwan would deploy their equipment.
"It does open your eyes up to different things that are out there — not just in our country but internationally," Michaels said.
The visiting firefighters also participated in a structural burn session and live fire training, a "mayday situation" to get a firefighter out of building, Deardorff said.
"They finished out (the training) strong and did a great job," he said, adding that they had a lot of fun and were hard workers.
"It was kind of a sad moment knowing we won't see them tomorrow," he said. "(It was) maybe a once-in-a lifetime experience."