Two years ago, Los Angeles County Firefighter Roland Dykes, fellow employee Anthony Lindheimer, and a group of parents took participants of the Explorers Program down to Argentina to see how they tackle fires there.
The bomberos, Spanish for firefighters, provided the crew of visitors with accommodations, food, and an experience the young men of Explorer Post 19 won’t soon forget.
This week, the Los Angeles County Fire returned the favor, welcoming a group of 25, including one nurse, from Argentina.
The City of Industry on Monday kicked off the trip with a reception and luncheon, the start of a week’s worth of activities. Besides Industry, LA County Fire serves Baldwin Park.
Lindheimer, who is Argentine, translated for the visitors and spoke of the commitment of the firefighters there.
He said during the trip to Argentina, the Explorers were shocked to learned that at one of the rural fire station’s, the crews only had electricity for two hours a day.
“The are very dedicated individuals who do the same thing we do here with fewer resources,” he said. “The dedication of these guys is unreal.”
Industry Mayor Jeff Parriott, Industry Manufacturers Council Executive Director Don Sachs, and Los Angeles County Fire Deputy Chief Angel Montoya welcomed the guests.
Firefighter Roland Dykes, who runs the Explorer Post 19 program out of Station 187 in Pomona, said it took 18 months to plan and fundraise for the trip to Argentina. The group traveled 600 miles around the country to visit fire stations from Buenos Aires to the coast, Dykes said.
Explorers went on a previous trip to Germany and the plan is to head to Barcelona, Spain next.
Dykes said the idea behind the trips is to encourage them in their pursuit of a firefighting career and expose them to how their counterparts in other countries work, often with far less advanced equipment than the explorers will have on the job.
The department’s Explorer Program is unlike any other of its kind in that it gets the participants set to become firefighters, he said.
“When they go through the County program, they are ready,” he said. “They are going to be a better firefighter because they know what they’re doing.”
Steven Blackwell, an 18-year-old explorer from South Pasadena, said the trip to Argentina would stay with him. He praised his hosts’ hospitality and warmth, adding that he loved the food too.
“The time we were there was probably one of the best experiences we’ve ever had,” he said. “They did whatever they could to make us happy and that’s what we loved.”