By RICK HAYES
MT. VERNON — — German firefighter Matthias Kretschmer has enjoyed the America way of life. He has an extra 10 pounds to prove it.
Kretschmer is completing his second three-month internship with the Jefferson Fire Protection District through a Continental Tire of the Americas internship.
During his time in America, Kretschmer has learned the intricacies of fighting fires, while at the same time, frequenting fast food joints. Germany has McDonald's restaurants, but no Wendy's or Jimmy John's, which Kretschmer says has become two of his favorite places to visit. And free refills on drinks, which he doesn't get in his hometown of Hanover, Germany.
Krestschmer says he wants to take back the experiences and technical advise he attained here.
"You can always count on the guys behind you. When I go somewhere, I know someone is going to be there to help me out," Krestschmer said. "Here there are generally two people to a truck whereas back home we have a minimum of eight firefighters on a truck. When you come up on a scene you have to run the pump to get the fire out. It's a little tricky, and I've learned to stay away from scenes where weapons may be involved. And it's been like a big family here."
JFPD firefighter Seth Burns added, "He's part of our family."
"For us it's been a unique opportunity," said JFPD Chief Mike Huntman. "We've had somebody from Germany to tell us how they fight fires over there compared to here. And it's different. Building construction is different. They probably have an advantage over us that we don't have. They build things a lot better," noting most houses are built with stone.
"It's been a pleasure having him here, and hopefully, he'll be back in November. We're kind of his extended family. It's been a pleasure having him here," Huntman said, adding, "He's a very outgoing personality. He represents Germany very well when he comes over here," Huntman said.
Kretschmer is nearing completion of his master's degree in mechanical engineering. This past internship was his second at the JFPD, after serving a similar three-month stint in 2012.
"I would like to come back. I like the country," Kretschmer said.