NEWS | June 26, 2008

Honduran fire inspectors, investigators visit Joint Task Force-Bravo

By Tech. Sgt. William Farrow Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs

For the first time, Joint Task Force-Bravo fire department personnel are providing a subject matter expert exchange for fire inspectors and investigators which may lead to a uniform system of fire prevention in Honduras.

Twelve fire inspectors and investigators from various cities and towns throughout Honduras are here taking part in the June 24-27 SMEE.

Over the years JTF-Bravo firefighters at have played an integral role in developing modern Honduran firefighting programs by holding SMEE and discussing the newest tactics and techniques for fighting wildland, structural and aircraft fire suppression and rescue efforts.

However, Mr. Herberth Gaekel, JTF-Bravo fire inspector, said while interacting with Honduran firemen, the JTF-Bravo firemen determined that if they offered SMEEs on fire prevention methods, codes and regulations, they would enhance the best overall fire deterrent: prevention.

"We figured if we explained how important fire code investigations are to U.S. firefighting efforts, our Honduran counterparts which use the information to best fit the needs of their firefighting programs," Mr. Gaekel said.

A fire inspector from Comayagua, Honduras, Lt. Jorge Turcios, said he is learning that codes set by the U.S. nonprofit National Fire Protection Association can help him and his fellow inspectors reduce the Honduran fire burden by advocating consensus codes and standards nationwide.

He said since NFPA's 300 codes and standards influence every building, process, service, design and installation in the United States, applying the same codes here would enhance their ability to ensure old and new structures and additions met the same code.

"The U.S. has the highest fire codes and it's very special for us to learn to work up to those standards by bringing them to Honduras," Lt. Turcois said. "We are taking the codes to city hall and requesting that they become the standard for all of Honduras."

He said he believes by instituting the NFPA fire codes, half of Comayagua's 28 fires last year could have been prevented.

Lieutenant Turcois said although all most new construction in Honduras meets code, it's additions to homes and businesses that are often overlooked during construction, and NFPA codes and inspections set policies that will improve standards in Honduras.

While here at JTF-Bravo, the Honduran inspectors took their learning outside the classroom and performed inspections with Mr. Gaekel at JTF-Bravo lodging facilities, the dining facility and the recently constructed Joint Security Forces facility, seeing first- hand alarm and suppression systems.

The Honduran inspectors also received a brief course in fire investigation by taking a look at the actual science of how fire spreads while participating in a burn house exercise.

"It's important to learn how fires start and spread so they can learn from others mistakes and make their knowledge part of a community fire prevention program," Mr. Gaekel said.