Portland Bomberos Latinos Association
The Portland Bombero Program got its start in 1999, when then Chief Ed Wilson asked Firefighter Jose Troncoso to accompany him to Guadalajara as a translator. Together with the Portland/Guadalajara Sister City Association, the City of Portland and Portland Fire had donated a Fire Engine. Wilson and Troncoso were to present the engine to the Guadalajara Fire Department. “Bombero” means “Fire Fighter” in Spanish, and for the past 17 years we have been providing the latest firefighting and rescue material produced in the United States, translated into Spanish. The training we provide has saved lives…not only the lives of the citizens of Guadalajara and the surrounding community, but the lives of the bomberos themselves. Although we’ve done 44 international trips, Guadalajara, Mexico has been by far the biggest recipient of the program.
Training topics have included Rapid Intervention, Incident Command, Vehicle Extrication, High-Angle Rescue, Wildland Firefighting and Hazardous Materials, to name just a few. In all, they’ve received training on over 28 topics, translated not only into Spanish, but the material tailored to be relevant and applicable in the community they serve. Building materials, construction, the metric system and differences in infrastructure all play into the equation. Guadalajara has no fire hydrants, for example. During the 17 year time frame we’ve worked with them, over 1,000 students have attended the courses we’ve presented there.
Equipment we’ve donated includes their country’s first Thermal Imaging Camera, which has already been used in 3 rescues to date. A laptop computer, LED projector, digital video camera and numerous rescue devices were also given to them. Since they only had 40 SCBA’s for the entire department, most firefighters had to enter the toxic fire environment without one. We were able to sell them the used, but still functional 283 PF&R units for the price that they would have paid for 7 new ones. Now every firefighter in the city is equipped with this vital tool. Radiation detection equipment (meters and dosimeters) have been provided for them. In July of 2008 firefighters from Mexico arrived in Portland to receive a Fire Engine, a Ladder Truck and miscellaneous fire-fighting equipment. The fire apparatus are already in service at a fire station in Guadalajara…the first two fire vehicles out of that station, serving their community.
In addition to the training and equipment, Guadalajara has started modeling their fire service and way they respond after the Portland model. Instead of having 120 firefighters on duty per day split among 5 stations like they had in 1999, they now have added 11 new, smaller stations staffed with the same personnel. Having 16 stations to respond from allows them to reach emergencies in a faster, more effective manner.
The Program is managed by a Director, which since its inception has been the founder, Troncoso. Every year at the trainings out of country, the Director will evaluate requests from Latin American countries based on need. The training is mutually agreed upon with priority being set on trainings that will have the maximum impact on the safety of the firefighters and the citizens of the recipient country.
The program consists of three trips annually to Mexico and other countries that the program is working with. Countries that have been served as of this update include: Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. To date we’ve included firefighter trainers from Portland, TVF&R, Hillsboro Fire, Thurston County Fire District 1 (Washington) and FDNY. The trainings consist of 40 hours of training in Spanish that include both Powerpoint presentations in the classroom and practical application on the drill ground. Our trainings are developed as “Train the Trainer” classes, and instructors are the first people admitted to the classes. We also provide the instructors with the Powerpoint courses on DVD’s, so that they may train their personnel once back at the station. In addition to training, the Bomberos Latinos sent 9 bilingual personnel to the Pan American games to assist Guadalajara with the EMS needs during the games in 2011.