By the end of their stay on Oct. 22, 12 members of the firefighting force from the Gyeonggi province of South Korea will have spent over seven weeks with Fire Service Training.
The group ventured to Stillwater to participate in several different training courses including Firefighter 1, HazMat Awareness, HazMat Operations, Vehicle Extrication and Flammable Liquid and Gas Training.
The visit was set up by a former graduate student, who is a Lieutenant in the Korea Fire Service, and reached out to the Director of Fire Service Training Dr. Erick Reynolds to set up the training opportunity for his fellow Fire Service members.
Members of the Gyeonggi-do Fire and Disaster Headquarters and upper administration at Oklahoma State University, including College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Dean Paul Tikalsky and President Burns Hargis, met and signed a memorandum of understanding for mutual cooperation on March 7.
This is the first international group that Reynolds has seen come through Fire Service Training since taking over as the director in 2014. “I’ve put together a few proposals for international groups in the past, but this was the first group that made it here,” Reynolds said.
The group of South Korean firefighters is comprised of people ranking from entry level firefighter all the way to captain. There are two female firefighters in the group, as well as two former members of South Korean Special Forces.
The group had all gone through training in South Korea, but wanted a more in-depth knowledge of the firefighting system in the United States.
“The South Korean firefighting system is modeled after the American system, but it isn’t as detailed. So we wanted a more detailed knowledge of the system to take home and teach our departments. In order to do so, we need the proper certifications, which is why we came here,” said Captain Jongseok Lee, the senior member of the South Korean group.
One such detail is the safety management for firefighters in the U.S. For example, at FST firefighters are required to take blood pressure readings before they start training. If their levels are too high they are held out of training for the day.
The dozen firefighters from South Korea are part of a force of nearly 8,000 firefighters in the Gyeonggi province, who serve nearly 13 million people. It is easily the most populated province in South Korea, and is smaller than the size of Connecticut. If you’re curious, Connecticut has a population of 3.5 million people.
The population density in such a small land area causes these firefighters to encounter situations that aren’t common in the U.S., such as the necessity of skills to fight fires in 150-story, concrete apartment buildings, instead of one-story, wooden houses.
The trip won’t be all work, though. The group is planning to take a short trip to New York City toward the end of training and then visit the west coast between the conclusion of training and leaving for home.
“This is a sharp group. We’ve really enjoyed having them here,” Reynolds said.