Monroe County Fire Rescue (MCFR) is participating with firefighters from Argentina in an exchange program sponsored by Rotary International.

Six volunteer firefighters from the Buenos Aires region spent two weeks in South Florida visiting fire rescue operations in Monroe, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Last week, the Argentinians were hosted for two days by Monroe County Fire Rescue, with accommodations at Station 13 on Big Pine Key.

In Argentina, most firefighters are volunteers. The six men in the exchange program spent one day at Monroe County’s new Joe London Training Facility on Crawl Key, where they learned several techniques.

One technique was bailing out of a burning building by going headfirst down a ladder, swinging the body around and sliding to the ground. This survival technique allows for firefighters to exit a building rapidly when conditions deteriorate and it is not possible to leave the building the same way they entered, said Charles Mather, Monroe County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief of Training.

The firefighters also learned “VEIS” – vent, enter, isolate and search. This is a technique used when there is a known occupant in a known area who can’t get out, from a small child to an elderly person who is bedridden.

And, the Argentine volunteer firefighters learned pump operations and hose handling on MCFR’s engines.

The group also visited MCFR headquarters in Marathon and fire operations at Naval Air Station Key West.

On May 14-26, a group of six firefighters from South Florida will travel to Argentina. The group includes Mather and Monroe County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Francisco Perez Diaz.

Rotary International District 4895 from Argentina and District 6990 in South Florida joined efforts to have the firefighters participate in an exchange program.

“We have a group of firefighters that will share their expertise, challenges, strengths and limitations to find better solutions for safeguarding our communities,” said the program’s leaders. “This program will make a difference.”

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