Minnesota fire fighters and emergency medical professionals embark on transformative training mission in Africa

December 29 • 2023

Members participating in the Africa Fire Mission’s latest symposium.

Firefighting involves more than just summoning courage during a crisis; it encompasses dedication to serving, rescuing, and protecting.  

Six women from diverse backgrounds, including members from St. Paul, MN Local 21 and Edina, MN Local 1275, recently embraced this commitment during their mission overseas, joining over two dozen fire fighters, emergency medical professionals, and volunteers from the state. 

“We’ve discussed the prospect of going to Africa for years, and for us, it’s unique because we’ve been teaching together for years with the Saint Paul Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Academy,” said Brittany Baker, a fire fighter and paramedic from Local 21. “I’ve always wanted to go, so being able to go and do what we’re passionate about is huge. Just going somewhere where all the fire fighters look like me, all the EMS providers look like me, and I’ve never had that before.”

The week-long trip is part of the Africa Fire Mission, a 501(c)(3) organization committed to enhancing the sustainable capacity of fire departments in developing communities. Participants train in leadership, fire prevention, rope rescue, emergency vehicle operations, and tactical firefighting, among other crucial skills. 

“We spent nine days there, with five days of active participation in a symposium that originally involved only Nairobi, Kenya, but has since expanded. This event offers them a chance to undergo training not readily available throughout the year,” explained Megan Bates, a full-time paramedic from Local 1275.

A statement shared online by the Isiolo County Fire and Rescue Department in Isiolo, Kenya, said, “The inclusion of female fire fighters in this initiative plays a crucial role in promoting gender diversity and empowerment. By breaking down barriers, these women serve as inspirational figures for aspiring fire fighters in Kenya and beyond.” 

“Experiencing a different culture highlights the challenge of effectively conveying messages and teaching, particularly when cultural differences impact interaction and handling of situations,” said Local 21 EMT, Layla Aden. 

The group says empowering others through training is about fostering resilience and creating a legacy of shared expertise that extends far beyond the classroom. 

“Witnessing the challenges faced by Kenya in developing their fire and EMS systems, the limited resources and the eagerness of the people to learn and absorb knowledge, humbles you. It reignites the passion for improvement in what we have in the U.S., reminding us of the opportunities to enhance our capabilities,” shared Kayla Sanchez, a fire fighter and paramedic from Local 21. 

The team members expressed gratitude to the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters for supporting the mission.