The Lisle-Woodridge Fire District welcomed a special guest last week in Polish firefighter Maciej “Mike” Mazurkiewicz.
Mazurkiewicz spent three days with the fire department learning what it means to be an American firefighter as part of a 30-day stay in the states.
“It’s important to see the culture,” the 23-year-old said. “I like America. I really enjoyed it and appreciate this opportunity.”
Mazurkiewicz is a student in the Main School of Fire Service in Warsaw, Poland, where he is set to begin his sixth year of schooling in October. He said the school is run similarly to a military school – unlike American fire departments, Poland’s fire departments function under the national government and work separately from emergency medical services.
“It takes four years to get your engineering degree with a junior ranking,” he said, adding that after a junior ranking fire students can then try to earn an officer ranking, as he is.
During his 30-day stay this month, Mazurkiewicz also trained with the O’Hare Airport Fire Department, the Bedford Park Fire Department and the Chicago Fire Department.
While at the Lisle-Woodridge Fire District, Mazurkiewicz went on a few routine calls, according to Scott Spinazola, Training & Safety Bureau Chief at the LWFD.
“[Mike] was involved in hands-on training along with paramedic training that dealt with toxic gases,” Spinazola said.
The Polish firefighter also participated in the mandatory hour-long daily workouts Spinazola said, adding that the LWFD firefighters spoiled him with American food.
Spinazola said the exchange program with MSFS is valuable for both sides.
“It’s important for us to see how the fire services differ in Europe and how he explained it operates in Poland,” Spinazola said. “Mike talked briefly about how they attack fires, which is relatively the same way but the difference is the equipment and how they do it.”
Spinazola explained some of equipment, such as airpacks and helmets, is different, but the main difference is the way firefighters deploy the hose.
On American fire trucks, the hoses are preloaded and connected together, ready to go. Whereas in Poland, firefighters have to grab individual hoses, then deploy and connect them, he said.
“[Mike] is very interested in not only Poland’s fire service but also at an international fire service level,” Spinazola said. “That says a lot of someone early in his career. It shows the potential for progression and for that program as well.”
Mazurkiewicz said he wanted to become a firefighter because it’s a noble job.
“The importance of this job is obvious,” Mazurkiewicz said. “We’re the only formation who saves people from accidents or fires. I really like when people see the fire departments and know we’re there to help.”