U.S., Russian firefighters find common ground when they meet in Savage

April 29, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

It didn't matter that the two groups of firefighters spoke different languages when they met at the Savage Volunteer Fire Department Tuesday.

Shiny red truck #63, which was sitting out front, became a point of mutual understanding, and the 11 visiting Russian firefighters were quick to admire it.

"No matter where you go, firefighters are basically the same type of people," said Savage Fire Capt. Monroe Feeser, 37.

The University of Maryland's Fire and Rescue Institute and OASES, formerly the Organization for American Soviet Exchanges Inc., coordinated the firefighters' trip so the Russians could see U.S. fire service and how it works.

The Russian firefighters have been in the United States since April 24 and plan to visit the Capitol and other U.S. sites before leaving May 1.

The Russians arrived at the station about 7 p.m. Tuesday on a red and white bus, then toured the station comparing equipment, technology and operations. The fire company crossed two aerial ladders about 65-feet high in front of the station on Lincoln Street to salute their guests, then held a dinner in their honor.

Eugene Karpov, chief of the Fire Department for the Moscow region, which has 6.5 million people, told the hosts through an interpreter: "Even though we're not home and far away, we still feel at home."

The two nations use different fire technology and equipment. Last year, members of the Fire and Rescue Institute visited Russia. Paul E. Calderwood, a fire captain from Massachusetts who helped organize the Russians' visit, toured Russia last year, too. He said he learned about Russian foams and other hazardous materials equipment, and how Russian fire stations rely on the military for financial "leftovers".

There are other differences. Women in Russia may be dispatchers but are prohibited from battling fires, a Russian firefighter said.

And Americans dial 911 to report fires and other emergencies, while Russians dial 01, Mr. Calderwood said.

"We'd like everything we have learned here introduced or implemented in our country," said Russian firefighter Moulishkin Viacheslav, 38.

During their two-hour stay, the Russians were puzzled by one thing.

"It's difficult for them to understand why work and not be paid for it," said interpreter Emilia Farrell. In Russia, she explained, firefighters operate on a professional basis, earning maybe $40 a month.

Savage Fire Chief Ernie Foster explained that dedicated people who have full-time jobs here enjoy volunteering.

But the two groups were alike, all agreed.

"We have a common enemy -- fire," Mr. Calderwood said. "We may not speak the same language, but the problems are the same."

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