WACO, TX — On a mission to improve their fire fighting capabilities, firefighters and city council members from Zacatecas, Mexico were welcomed by the Waco Fire Department with a tour of Fire Station No. 5 on Thursday.
It was the first meeting between the two fire departments from separate countries, meant to establish a line of communication, and lay the groundwork for potentially developing a relationship of sharing in the future.
During Thursday's meeting, Zecateca's firefighters and two city council members were given a tour of the fire station by Waco Fire Fighters, which included a demonstration of several pieces of equipment they utilize to respond to emergencies. Following the tour, the meeting culminated with Zacatecas firefighters presenting a plaque and a gift basket to the Waco Fire Department.
Helping break down the language barrier between the two departments was Chairman of Waco's Hispanic Museum, Louis Garcia.
"We have the director and then the fire chief from Zecatecas," Garcia said. "They have come here to ask not only for donations but also to see the kind of equipment that's here that they don't have. Most of the equipment that they have is being donated to them. And so they're hoping to open up the communication lines with Waco to try to get some equipment to them."
Translating for firefighters from the two departments, Garcia made the exchange of information more accessible. He explained how the opportunity for Zecateca's firefighters to learn about the equipment they lack back home and see how it's used would impact other fire departments in the area.
"They have five municipalities around their city and these are the guys depended on for information," Garcia said. "Not only for help and because they have the most equipment in the area. But also they are depended on for training and any education in firefighting."
During Thursday's meeting, there were moments the presence of any language barrier seemed to diminish entirely. How Waco firefighters communicated with Zecateca's firefighters, demonstrating the equipment, gave you the false impression, everyone was bi-lingual.
"There's a camaraderie among firefighters worldwide," Acting Deputy Chief of Emergency Operations with the Waco Fire Department, Patrick Veselka, said. "All the duties and actions we do in our jobs, no matter where you're at in the world, are similar among firefighters."
It's the job. Ahead of Christmas and the winter season also looms a period in which fire departments in Mexico and the United States usually see a peak in home fires.
"Christmas time and the holiday season, are the busiest time of year for firefighters wherever you're at," Veselka said.
Always preparing for the unexpected, Thursday's meeting was a rewarding experience for both fire departments as they exchanged sign plaques and posed for a group photo.
"We felt a sense of gratitude and appreciation," Veselka explained. "It was humbling they reached out to us."
It was also a reminder.
"We're fortunate to live where we do and have the city fully support us," Veselka said.
A reminder about how fortunate we are to live where we do. In a world where there are firefighters, like the ones at Waco Fire Station on Thursday.
"There's just there's no words to describe today," Garcia said. "To have the doors opened like Waco Fire Chief Summers did and just come in and help us out. Yeah, I'm sure it feels great for the Zecateca's firefighters because again, it's a family affair."