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A firefighting commander from Nagoya is in Madagascar to organize volunteer fire brigades, which are in short supply, and is using the Japanese system and language to get his message across.

Hisao Midorikawa, 54, was sent to Madagascar in September 2000 by the Japan International Cooperation Agency to work for the country’s Internal Administration Reform Ministry as a firefighting expert.

The island capital has a population of around 1.2 million and just one fire station, manned by 61 firefighters.

Midorikawa, who always wears the orange coveralls he wore when he commanded a rescue squad in Nagoya, provided a training session in late May in downtown Antananarivo.

“Any difficulty can be overcome if you are determined to protect the lives of your squad members,” he told the 14 people who took part in the session.

Because there is no budget to expand the number of professional firefighters, Midorikawa has established 43 fire brigades involving 2,000 volunteers.

Midorikawa uses Japanese words to communicate with the squad members, including “atsumare” (get together) and “yoshi” (ready).

The volunteers, who have no uniforms, wore sandals and short pants.

A 25-year-old taxi driver in one squad said, “I want to protect my city and the people around me.”

Midorikawa is also targeting forest fires, which destroy 2 percent of the island’s forests annually and damage crops and the environment.

Although the government has prohibited the burning of dead grass off fields, the practice continues.

Midorikawa has asked the government to designate areas for controlled burns and has been instructing citizens on how to prevent them from spreading.

According to official figures, forest and brush fires were down by half in 2001 from the previous year.

Midorikawa, whose wife and daughter stayed in Japan, will remain in Madagascar until October.

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