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Durham Fire Department Looking For Bilingual Recruits

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DURHAM — It takes training, courage and compassion to be a firefighter. But in Durham, the department has added a new trait to the list -- being bilingual.

For firefighters, every call has the potential of being a life-threatening situation so it's critical that they and the fire victims, speak the same language.

Captain Bob Perera is only one of five bilingual firefighters with the Durham fire department right now, but they are hoping to change that.

"Let's say there's a structure fire and you have little kids trapped inside," he says. "You know they speak Spanish and if you went in to speak Spanish, they're more likely to come to you.""

The department is looking to fill 18 slots. Recruiters hope some will be bilingual. The city is offering a $1,000 incentive bonus to anyone who meets the requirements and is fluent in Spanish.

"If you're fluent and you can comprehend, read and write, we pay out the bonus," says recruiter Christine Cates.

Firefighters hope that by closing the language gap, they may end up saving more lives.

"I found that once you start speaking in Spanish to them, they're more likely to give you information and open up to you," Perera says.

There will be two open houses this week for anyone interested in joining the Durham fire department. The next one will take place at 8:30 a.m. Friday. Another one will take place 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Both will be at the administration building on East Club Boulevard.


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