Sooke firefighters head to Panama

Crew ill train Panamanians basic firefighting skills

You’ve probably heard it many times before: Sooke may be a small town, but its arms can stretch out wide and far – such as the six volunteers from the Sooke Fire Association who will travel in a couple of weeks to Boquete, Panama, to provide emergency training and equipment to the local fire department.

Sooke Fire Rescue sent out a team of volunteers to Panama in 2013, providing basic fire training and tips on handling emergency situations. And, like last time, the department raised money for the trip through fundraisers such as bottle drives and car washes.

Sooke firefighter John Hester said much of the training with Boquete fire crews this time will focus on the process of safely extracting people out of vehicles.

“We’ll teach them how to stabilize a car, how to break the glass properly, how to take off the doors, the roof, if the car is on its side or upside-down, that sort of thing,” he said, adding he and five other volunteers will be there for five days, with training sessions running from morning until later afternoon.

There’s also a theory component every day, some classroom time, then they’ll go out and perform the practical stuff on the cars along with the tools. This includes how-tos on using the jaws of life and other hydraulic tools familiar to firefighters.

“It’s a lot of hard work, just the fundraising for us to go there has been pretty constant, as well as preparing the training plans we have for them,” Hester said, adding the efforts being made will ensure a full, enriching experience for the firefighting men and women in Panama.

After all, it did happen once before, said Sooke Fire Chief Steven Sorensen, adding when Sooke’s fire volunteers first visited Panama in 2013, the local firefighters were so impressed with the quality of the instruction that the head of the Panamanian fire service showed up and certified the training they did as the requirements for all of Panama.

The volunteers will be heading off to Panama on Oct. 16.