Vandaag in de krant in Corpus christi

European firefighters observe local crews and ride along on emergencies

By mike baird Caller Times
April 14, 2006

Unlike Corpus Christi's neighborhood fire stations, firefighters in Antwerp have just one megastation. It houses about 150 firefighters with more than 70 fire trucks and serves 457,000 people in 200 square miles. That's because most of Antwerp's buildings are made of stone and don't easily burn.

But there are similarities between Corpus Christi and Belgium that bring a dozen firefighters here this weekend.

"At home we have industry, ports and residents together like Corpus Christi," said Filip Van Acker, a 13-year veteran firefighter for Dow Chemical Co. plant in Terneuzen, Holland. "We started organizing this visit in December 2004."

The visiting firefighters from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, ages 23 to 59, saved their own money to travel to Corpus Christi and observe firefighters here because of that similarity.

The visitors arrived at the fire department's headquarters at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. After a tour of the city's Emergency Operations Center and the Refinery Terminal Fire Company they were divvied into two-man teams and assigned to six of Corpus Christi's 16 stations for the weekend.

The men will ride along on any fire or emergency runs Saturday to observe. During their stay they also will visit Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, the Lexington Museum on the Bay, the 911 dispatch center and firefighter's union hall.

The visitors also brought some of their equipment.

"They have very unique helmets," said Assistant Chief Rick Trevino. "They have flip-down heat-shield goggles and respirator masks that clip into notches - neat stuff."

Contact Mike Baird at 886-3774

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