"Firefighters Without Borders" back home in Tucson from mission - Tucson News Now

"Firefighters Without Borders" back home in Tucson from mission in Israel

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A water cannon salute greets local firefighters as they arrive at Tucson International from Israel. A water cannon salute greets local firefighters as they arrive at Tucson International from Israel.
The Tucson area firefighters trained with Israeli firefighters. The Tucson area firefighters trained with Israeli firefighters.
Israeli Defense Force firefighters showing the Tucson area firefighters how they deal with rocket attack threats. Israeli Defense Force firefighters showing the Tucson area firefighters how they deal with rocket attack threats.
These are the 7 firefighters who made up the "Firefighters Without Borders" delegation. These are the 7 firefighters who made up the "Firefighters Without Borders" delegation.

A delegation of local firefighters received a hero's welcome home at Tucson International Airport upon their arrival from Israel.

As their flight taxied to the gate, they were greeted by a water canon salute courtesy of the Tucson Airport Authority Fire Department. "Firefighters Without Borders" was comprised of seven firefighters from a number of different agencies, including Northwest Fire District, Rincon Valley, and the Tucson Airport Authority. They visited several cities and regions, like the Gaza strip, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv in the nearly two weeks they spent in Israel.

The local firefighters were embedded with Israeli Defense Force Firefighters, who are military members that work with civilian firefighters, responding to rocket and terrorist attacks. "It's much safer in the U.S. than what it is over there," says Rincon Valley Captain Scott Laird, "the firefighters are the same as we are, but they're working with a whole lot less manpower, not nearly as nice as pieces of equipment, but they're supported in multiple different layers."

Capt. Laird says that support comes in the way of sponsored ambulances and fire trucks, "there are a lot of Americans who donate money for equipment over there, so there's a direct connection we saw first hand."

The purpose of the trip is to learn from each other in a region of the world that's no stranger to deadly violence. Israeli first responders often find themselves working in incredibly dangerous situations. For firefighters like Lt. Thomas Tucker from the Tucson Airport Authority, learning how they handle those kind of working conditions is valuable experience he'll pass on to his fellow local firefighters, " it was an unbelievable opportunity for the community, opportunity for the Tucson Airport Fire Department to be able to go train overseas, we trained with several different departments. We trained all over to see how first responders reacted to incidents, just an amazing experience."

The Greater Tucson Fire Foundation (GTFF) raised the money to pay for the trip through private donations and hopes to send more firefighters in the future. It costs about $5,000 per person and GTFF is already taking donations for the next delegation.

"This is not a diplomatic delegation, it is a fact-finding mission," Golder Ranch Fire District Chief Randy Karrer told the Arizona Jewish Post. Chief Karrer, who is also a GTFF trustee, says, "Israeli first responders are internationally recognized and respected for their knowledge and techniques that protect their civilian population. These firefighters want to learn how they might better serve our own community, by gaining first hand, real-world knowledge from their professional counterparts.

Karrer went on to say, "for years we thought that terrorist-type events would never happen in the quiet Old Pueblo - but the events of Jan. 8, changed that perspective. Tucson has many high-profile events that could be targeted, much like the Boston Marathon incident, and we must ensure our first responders preplan the event and are astute to the latest most effective procedures."

If you would like help with the on-going fund raising efforts, donations may be sent to the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation, 300 S. Fire Central Place, Tucson, AZ 85701. You can also check out the GTFF website to learn more.

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