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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Malawi firefighters to visit St. Albans

For The Charleston Gazette

The St. Albans Fire Department will host two firefighters from an African nation later this month to help teach them modern emergency-response techniques.

Fire Chief Steve Parsons told the City Council Monday night he met the two individuals — Prescort Sailasi and Nitron Rajabn — while he was in Malawi conducting missionary work. Although he extended invitations for them to visit St. Albans, he was surprised when they were able to accept his offer by arranging a grant from an African cell phone company.

Parsons said that although their department has only six firefighters, it covers a territory roughly the size of Charleston and South Charleston combined with a population of 1.2 million people.

All of that is done with only one fire truck with an eight-section hose and a single nozzle.

Despite the lack of equipment, Parsons helped the fire department battle a chemical plant blaze he described as comparable in size to the Nitro tire fire several years ago.

He expects a great deal of culture shock when his guests arrive.

“It will literally be like a Martian coming to visit,” he said. “They’ve never been out of their state, much less their country.”

Parsons said Sailasi and Rajabn are from the township of Blantyre, which is in southern African nation of Malawi.

Besides instruction, Parsons said he hopes to be able to arrange equipment donations for the men’s department.

He said he can easily find material to be donated, but is having difficulty arranging funding for transporting it to Africa.

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