6 firefighters from Saudi Arabia to embed with Charlotte Fire

CHARLOTTE — For the next six months, Charlotte Fire will have six new faces working alongside them -- firefighters from Saudi Arabia.

It’s the first time it’s happened here, and Channel 9’s Hunter Sáenz got an up-close look at what they’ll be put through.

Firefighters rush to a car engulfed in flames on Friday, but it was al a drill. Under some of those helmets and behind the masks were firefighters from Saudi Arabia. The six of them are now serving alongside Charlotte’s bravest, and undergoing intense training to learn best practices for the job.

Saudi fire captain Turkey Al-Shahrani has one mission:

“To put this fire out,” he said. “It’s very hot, it’s very risky. And we hope all safe.”

The goal is to do all that while learning valuable lessons. Jeff Dulin is with the International Association of Fire Chiefs. He said this international fellowship program is a win-win for both Charlotte and Saudi firefighters.

“They don’t get as many actual structure fires, or house fires as we do here. We don’t get as many refinery fires or technical rescue situations,” Dulin said. “That learning and sharing across the two countries is invaluable.”

From running out the hoses, to masking up, to flooding the fire, Charlotte Fire Deputy Chief Peter Skeris said they’ll learn different strategies and safety skills that could be crucial back home.

“The good things we do, how we operate, and be able to plug that into their operations in Saudi Arabia and become just a more well-rounded fire department,” Skeris said.

After training, the Saudi firemen will eventually be embedded for six months at Charlotte fire stations, answering emergencies around the city. They’ll be taking what they learn here back overseas to continue saving lives.

Charlotte is one of 16 U.S. cities chosen to host Saudi firefighters. By mid-December, they’ll join crews responding to emergencies here.

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Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.