CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — There are some new firefighters in training at the Charlotte Fire Department. They came across the world from Saudi Arabia to home their firefighting skills in the United States.
The firefighters from Saudi Arabia work for Saudi Aramco. The oil company is sending them overseas to learn from Charlotte firefighters.
The firefighters are far from home, but their work is the same.
“It’s very hot and very risky, and we hope all safe,” said Turki Al-Shahrani.
Al-Shahrani is one of six Saudi Arabian firefighters now training with the Charlotte Fire Department. The three-week training program helps the men build on their firefighting techniques.
“We need to increase our skills, our firefighting skills,” said Al-Shahrani.
There are some differences in firefighting between the countries.
“They’re very strict on their fire codes, so their ability to go to house fires and building fires is far less than what we get exposed to here in the U.S.,” said Deputy Chief Peter Skeris from the Charlotte Fire Department.
Saudi Arabia firefighters battle fires at oil refineries and work to protect the ports.
“We hope on our side we can take advantage of their knowledge on refinery operations for ‘Tank Town’ up in Coulwood and up that way,” said Skeris.
Once the Saudi Arabian firefighters graduate in weeks, they’ll become full-fledged Charlotte firefighters. They’ll stay in the Queen City, live at stations, and work for six months.
“The fire service is a true brotherhood and sisterhood internationally,” said Jeff Dulin with the International Fire Chiefs Association.
In other U.S. cities, Saudi Arabia firefighters have earned the Highest Hero awards for their work in America, according to Dulin. The partnership has produced over 160 Saudi firefighters.
“These fellows are out there every day being Charlotte firefighters, taking care of the Charlotte community,” said Dulin.
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The program with Saudia Arabia is a partnership with the International Fire Chiefs Association, but this is the first time the Charlotte Fire Department has participated in the seven-year-old program. In May, Charlotte was the first city in the southeastern part of the United States to get a Certified Welcoming page designation. Charlotte is one of 16 cities and counties in the nation to earn this honor.