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It’s a good thing the Bloomington, Indiana, Fire Department(BFD)provided criticaltrainingto the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and the country’s National Fire Force (NFF) in February 2019. Because just over a year later, the embassy and the NFF put those skills to use, when a fuel truck caught fire when it was delivering fuel to the embassy.

OnApril 29, 2020,a commercial fuel provider was making its routine delivery to Embassy Freetown when one of the truck’s fuel tanks suddenly caught fire and exploded. Embassy personnel, led by the facilities manager and regional security office, sprang into action. The facilities and security offices made calls to the Sierra Leone NFF for backup while others fought the fire directly.Embassy security personnel attempted to cordon off the neighborhood immediately outside the compound’s gates, but hundreds of onlookers continued to gather to watch .

While the fuel tank explosion was of concern, Regional Security Officer Ken Bomongcag was also worried about another immediate problem: the embassy’s fuel tank.

“If the embassy tank exploded, several bystanders could have been injured,” said Bomongcag.

Fortunately, that was not the case. According to Bomongcag, the embassy’s fuel tank caught on fire and nearly exploded, but the NFF responded quickly, helping extinguish the second fire just in time.

“The NFF put out the fire before the larger tank exploded,” said Bomongcag. “We would not have been able to put out the large fire that would have occurred if the embassy’s tank had erupted.

”In February 2019, four firefighters with the BFD traveled to Sierra Leone and spent a week training the NFF as well as several of Embassy Freetown’s medical, security, and first responders on skills such as crisis response preparation and fire extinguisher use. The visit was part of the Young African Leadership Initiative, which provides Americans the opportunity to travel to Africa to build partnerships and professional connections to help strengthen democratic governance and securityacross Sub-Saharan Africa.

Bomongcag credits that visit with the successful outcomes of what could have been a dangerous situation.“The training the Bloomington Fire Department provided to the embassy’s chief of mission staff and the National Fire Force saved lives and property for the embassy and surrounding community,” said Bomongcag. “The contacts and friendships that were made between embassy and NFF at last year’s trainingno doubt led to the NFF’swillingness to respond quickly.”

U.S. Department of State

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