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Fire officials see similarities with Sarov

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Russia trip> Hughes, Grider get glimpse of robotic technology

By Tris DeRoma

About 6,000 miles away, there’s a town in Russia that has a similar history to Los Alamos when it comes to the development of nuclear weaponry and technology.

Sarov, a town located in Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia, has been a major nuclear production facility since 1946.

The two towns also share a similar history when it comes to natural disasters.

In 2000, Los Alamos was ravaged by the Cerro Grande Fire, which came very close to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 2010, Sarov went through a similar event when it had to evacuate its nuclear facilities and relocated its nuclear materials as wildfires ravaged the area.

So, it’s only natural that fire officials through the years have developed a relationship with each other through the Sister Cities Initiative. Officials from Los Alamos again recently paid a visit to Sarov to share ideas. Delegations from Los Alamos and Sarov have been visiting each other since the early 90s, when the Los Alamos National Laboratory embarked with Sarov’s nuclear laboratory on a series of arms control and nuclear safety programs.

This most recent visit took place from Oct. 16- 26 and included Troy Hughes, fire chief for the Los Alamos Fire Department and Deputy Chief Justin Grider. It was the first time the two visited Sarov, which included an 11-hour flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Moscow before they took a train to Sarov the next day. Also included in the delegation were County Administrator Harry Burgess, Council Chair Geoff Rodgers, Sister Cities Initiative Coordinator Paul White, and Tatiana Klimov, a Los Alamos business woman who also served as an interpreter.

According to Hughes and Grider, the first few days of their trip revealed a number of similarities between the two countries as well as Los Alamos and Sarov. Moscow, they said appeared to be just like any other big city in America, complete with familiar restaurant chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway. However, once they moved on to Sarov, the differences became more marked.

“The entire city of Sarov is closed and gated,” Hughes said. “It’s similar to our laboratory, but all of the residential areas are also included within that confinement. There was a higher level of security than what we feel here.”

Their tour included a visit to a couple of fire stations as well as a review of the type of equipment they use. Hughes noted the departments, which are directly controlled through the country’s federal government, were doing interesting things with robotics as well as with environmental protection. At one of the stations, they had built a water reclamation system into their truck wash, where the used water will be recollected and filtered again for reuse in the wash again.

As for the department’s robotics, Hughes and Grider were treated to demonstrations where the department’s robots would actually deploy hoses to a fire, and then pump water onto the blaze. Russian officials told them they used them when the situation was just too dangerous to send a human being.

Grider also said they noticed Sarov placed much emphasis on youth, and especially youth programs.

“It was daunting walking in there the first day, but after the third day it was like family,” Grider said. What they give and do for their children is just phenomenal. Los Alamos does a lot of the same here, but it was refreshing to see them doing the same.”

Toward the end of the trip, the groups exchanged souvenirs, with the LAFD procuring a piece of headgear from the Sarov firefighters to put in the display case of their new headquarters off Central Avenue.