Eldoret, a large and fast-growing city in Kenya, needed help.
The city, with a population of about 220,000, has large shantytowns where open fires are used for cooking âÄî but its fire protection
In 2008 officials asked for a fire truck, and Minneapolis, its sister city, answered. In January, a retired pumper truck arrived. But without any instruction, the cityâÄôs use of the new truck has been limited.
This January, four Minneapolis Fire Department employees will travel to Eldoret to show the city how to run and maintain the equipment.
The visit will include a two-week fire fighting course and information on truck upkeep, said LaJune Lange, president of the International Leadership Institute.
ILI is a Minneapolis-based group that works with nations, cities and groups âÄúin transitionâÄù that need help tackling tough problems.
âÄúTheyâÄôve had very serious fires in Eldoret and other parts of Kenya,âÄù Lange said. âÄúThe fire department has not been equipped or prepared to respond to the fires so major loss of life has occurred.âÄù
Eldoret does not have hydrants, so without training or the ability to identify local water sources, âÄúfirefighters could be overconfident and go to a fire, run out of water and endanger themselves and lose more lives,âÄù Lange said. âÄúTraining is essential when you give people equipment.âÄù
Firefighters using the 500-gallon pumper truck improperly could empty it in five minutes, Lange said.
In addition to fire fighting training, learning how to maintain the truck is important.
âÄúMany times well-meaning people from America will give equipment to other countries and make no provisions to maintain the equipment,âÄù Lange said. âÄúSo as soon as the equipment breaks down, then it is of no use to anybody and itâÄôs a real disappointment.âÄù
David DeWall, chief of operations for the Minneapolis Fire Department, will be heading to Kenya with the program.
âÄúWe have been told that their fire service is somewhat archaic,âÄù Dewall said. âÄúNot necessarily a standard [that people] would recognize in the United States.âÄù
All shipping, equipment and accommodations are covered by Eldoret. However, Minneapolis will pay the travelersâÄô normal salaries during their time in Kenya.
Minneapolis will incur no extra expenses from the trip, said Jenny Chayabutr, senior resource coordinator for the cityâÄôs Intergovernmental Relations department.
The Minneapolis City Council accepted travel funds from Eldoret at the Nov. 15 Ways & Means/Budget Committee, when it also approved donating old fire equipment no longer in use.
This is not the first time the two cities have interacted. Delegations from Eldoret have visited Minneapolis several times since the two became sister cities in 2000.
Eldoret officials have also studied city departments for rezoning efforts to better provide city services like the currently absent fire hydrants.