By Sgt. Lee Min-hwi (USAG-Yongsan)May 18, 2009
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - Fire and hazardous materials incidents may strike at any moment, whether on or off post. When a fire threatens the Yongsan Community, a well-coordinated Korean-American response is vital to saving lives and property.
Chief of Seoul's Jung-bu Fire Station Kim Sung-soo knows how important coordination between Korean and American firefighters can be. A fire broke out March 11 in a four-story building in Seoul threatening the safety of a nearby market and its customers. "It was a small clothing warehouse that was stacked full of highly combustible materials. I couldn't see the sky because of thick black smoke," Kim said.
That was only the beginning of Kim's problems that day.
Burning factory debris had breached the adjacent Far East District Compound perimeter, a small U.S. Army facility near Dongdaemoon Market. The fire may have potentially spread to some U.S. Army facilities.
"They quickly implemented the Mutual Aid Agreement and entered the installation to put out the fire," said U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan Fire Chief Alex Temporado. "They kept the FED Compound safe and did a really great job."
After the incident, Kim received a certificate of appreciation from 8th U.S. Army Commander Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr. for heroic action in extinguishing the warehouse fire and preventing damage to U.S. Government property.
"Under the Mutual Aid Agreement between USAG-Yongsan and Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Department, both fire departments can support each other in the event of a major fire or emergency requiring fire services," Temporado said. "Kim's courageous action was possible because of this great partnership."
The two fire departments came together again May 13 to conduct a joint exercise in the FED Compound based on an AAFES snack bar fire scenario.
"Because FED Compound is located off the main USAG-Yongsan installation, we have to make sure that fire fighting resources arrive there within the required amount of time," Temporado said.
The scenario involved two simulated victims caught in the snack bar where artificial smoke filled the whole building. The manager of the snack bar made a simulated emergency call to the fire station which triggered the exercise.
"It was a good chance to actually perform what I learned in fire safety training," said Kim Hyung-sik, the manager of the snack bar.
"All the fire fighting resources and crews started arriving immediately and initiated victim removal, search and fire suppression," Temporado added. "They also established a command post and communicated with our crews through a mutual aid radio channel. We met all of our objectives and it was very successful."
"One of the main objectives was to improve installation accessibility in case of fire for quick response," Kim said. "This training also familiarized us with streets, facilities and other conditions within the installation."
Kim said he would like to conduct joint exercises often to strengthen the Korean-American partnership.
"The benefits of this training are tremendous," Temporado said. "I cannot think of any other U.S. Army bases that have such a partnership."
Temporado conducts ongoing fire safety campaigns in Yongsan Garrison. He encourages anyone interested in fire safety training to call him at 738-5200.
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