Cape Verdean firefighters train with Brockton Fire Department

BROCKTON — Helio Lima’s firefighting career began 3,378 miles away in the fire department for Praia, Cape Verde. Lima, now with the Brockton Fire Department, is reconnecting with his old department in a transatlantic training mission.

Last week and this week, five firefighters from Praia are learning new techniques from their Brockton brothers and sisters. Lima has been pressed into round-the-clock interpreter duties. Speaking through Lima’s interpretation, Praia Fire Chief Carlos Teixeira said it means a lot to him to experience the exchange and bring that learning back home.

“It will reinforce the friendship with Brockton and to do more things and to help more and to reinforce this friendship even more, every day,” Teixeira said.

The training is the latest gesture of solidarity between Brockton and Cape Verde. Brockton is home to more Cape Verdeans than any other city in the United States.

Thursday morning’s lesson took place on a Thatcher Street property across from Everett’s Auto Parts where the Brockton Fire Department often trains. The Cape Verdean visitors and their hosts worked on getting crash victims safely out of cars.

The firefighters practiced on a hunter green Volkswagen Golf. They deflated the tires to increase stability. They sawed off the roof. They practiced using power tools to pry open the dashboard.

The training followed a syllabus designed by Brockton Deputy Fire Chief Rob Hendrigan. He sweated the details. For example, in Cape Verde they use a gas-powered extrication tool. Brockton Fire uses an electrical one. Brockton firefighters trained using the gas-powered equipment, but also demonstrated the electrical version. Hendrigan focused another training on fires in cement structures, which are common on the islands.

Lima said it was a special feeling to have his former co-workers back here.

“We can teach them a few lessons, show them the Brockton way to do the the work,” said Lima, who has been in Brockton for 8 years.

The collaboration between Brockton and its counterpart in the Cape Verdean capital isn’t new. Mayor Robert F. Sullivan traced its beginnings to an agreement between former Fire Chief Michael Williams and his counterpart in Praia. In 2021, Brockton sent over a used fire truck.

The trip took planning. The visiting firefighters had to get visas, for example, Brockton Fire Chief Brian Nardelli said.

Sullivan attended part of Thursday’s training.

“It’s a phenomenal relationship,” the mayor said. “What Brockton Fire Department is doing, they do wonderful [work] every day in the city of Brockton, but now they’re expanding that internationally to help other fire departments.”

City Councilor Moises Rodrigues and the Cape Verdean Association of Brockton helped organize the visit. Rodrigues beamed Thursday as he watched the two departments train on the Volkswagen.

“I think it’s one of the best things we could do in terms of helping our fellows humans across the Atlantic on something very positive, that’s not charity,” the former mayor said. “More like providing them with resources that they can put into play.”

Rodrigues said no taxpayer money is being used for the trip. The visiting firefighters are bunking at Our Lady of Sorrows convent, for instance, instead of a hotel. One recent lunch was bologna and cheese sandwiches.

The five Cape Verdean firefighters spent Thanksgiving in Brockton and rode in the firetrucks in the Holiday Parade. After their week of training with Brockton Fire is over, they plan to train with Brewster Ambulance for a week.

Send your news tips to reporter Chris Helms by email at CHelms@enterprisenews.com or connect on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, at @HelmsNews.


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