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Minneapolis Firefighters Connecting With Local Somalis

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
Angela Davis joined the station in 2006. Angela co-anchors the Sund...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis firefighter has found a creative way to deal with a challenge that the entire fire department is facing.

Fire Captain Tracy Moore applied for a $20,000 grant geared towards connecting communities and won it. Her goal is to improve the fire department’s relationship with the Somali community, and reduce the number of misunderstandings that occur. Her method is through the children.

As a fire captain, Moore is accustomed to training rookies but not teenagers. And these young people have something in common, they’re all of East African descent.

“The people in the Cedar/Riverside area, the east African community, they are new here and not sure when to call 911,” Moore said. “We had 110 calls last year for emergency medical response and a lot of those were for things like headaches or a cut finger, things that are really minor.”

Captain Moore started this fire academy so that teenagers from the Somali community could learn what firefighters do, and then share that knowledge with their parents and siblings.

“They are learning about tools, learning to make knots, learning CPR and first aid. The Red Cross is coming, so every kid who comes through this program will be certified in CPR and first aid,” Moore said.

The firefighters who teach the students are getting a chance to interact with them socially and get a better understanding of their culture.

“A lot of people would think that this fire academy is for the kids, but it is just as much for the firefighters. It is important for us to have those positive relationships,” Moore said.

On this night, the students are at the fire department’s training facility where they had a chance to meet the chief.

“They’ve cooked a couple of meals and they’ve talked about liking the pasta, spaghetti and meatballs and last week I think they enjoyed interacting with firefighters with the tools and equipment,” Chief John Fruetel said.

Twice a week, the teenagers get a chance to experience something new.

“I think it will help us understand what firefighters area bout. Right now we are oblivious, we say they just work with fires or something like that,” said Fadumo Mohamaed, a student at Minneapolis Southwest High School.

That grant the fire department received was provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield. The students just started their twice-a-week field trips last month and will complete their training in April. In addition to spending time at the training facility, they are also visiting fire stations and the dispatch center, and learning about hazardous materials and animal rescue.

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