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KPD, KFD members learn Spanish to help victims

11:39 PM, Mar 19, 2013   |    comments
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Emergency responders in Knoxville say it's becoming increasingly common for them to assist locals who do not speak English as their first language.

That was the case Tuesday afternoon in North Knoxville when a house fire left an eight-month-old with second degree burns.

The infant's mother Magdalena Pasqual safely escorted her child and another infant outside of the burning building, but could only plead for help in Spanish.

A motorist, who happened to be bilingual, drove by Pasqual's house and then assisted her in calling 911. That motorist then translated on Pasqual's behalf as to what had happened during the incident.

"We see more and more Hispanic [residents] moving into the Knoxville area," said Knoxville Fire Department spokesperson DJ Corcoran. "We noticed this a couple of years ago and we've taken the measures, we've taken the steps to start learning the language."

He said KFD currently has "two or three" firefighters who are bilingual. Corcoran added they are also training several more workers to learn the language.

More Information: UT Study -- Tennessee has the third fastest growing Hispanic population  

The Knoxville Police Department trains all of its officers in basic Spanish once they join the force. KPD Lieutenant Shawna Williams, who is also bilingual, said it is an important tool that allows officers to provide help to all Knoxvillians.

"I think it's important that we serve our victims and we serve our community," she said.

Anabel Lino, the board chair for Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, said she was glad emergency responders were making the effort to learn new languages as well.

"You can already see it at the supermarket, that's it's a bilingual path," she said. "So, it's really important for the safety of everybody to have knowledge of both languages."

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