Robert Triozzi had always dreamed of growing up to be a fireman when he was a child, but now, aged 45, a New York fire chief and head of the United Nations fire service, he has fought fires in countries and under life-threatening situations he had never dreamed of - not to mention losing close colleagues from the New York Fire Department on September 11. Triozzi is currently in Palma as guest of Bomberos Sin Fronteres taking part in a fire fighting training exercise. He was named UN fire chief in 1994 and since then never stopped travelling. His primary mission is to train local fire fighters - he has been seconded to countries all over Africa, many gripped in the middle of civil and religious wars or famine and droughts, the Far East and war-torn eastern Europe. Needless to say on many of the missions, he and his team of fire fighters have had to drop the lessons and assist in fighting fires. He said yesterday that the risks are always higher for his team when in deployment to areas of conflict “but fire fighters have no allegiances to any flags, our main concern is fighting fires and that's got to be done quickly and intelligently.” In 1993 he was chief of the fire brigade in Sarajevo, when the city was besieged by snipers who did not care whether the target was a fireman or a soldier “they just shot an anything that moved,” he said while taking part in a training exercise at the old fire station at Son Banya. Triozzi told of how on a number of occasions they had to be rescued by UN troops. In total 12 firemen died in Sarajevo and a further 48 were injured “it was very hard to operate there and life was far from normal.” He spent 26 months establishing a fire service in Kosovo and during that time was part of a team of structural engineers inspecting all the damaged buildings - the services of UN troops were needed again on various occasions. But none of that prepared him for September 11. Triozzi was in Rome at the time. “But I saw it on tv like the rest of the world. “At first I thought it was an accident, I just could not accept the idea it was a terrorist attack, but when the second plane hit, it was clear New York was under attack.” Triozzi said that the response from the New York fire departments was instant and massive. “All of the fire departments headed straight for the towers, but because of the risks of the buildings collapsing, only a carefully controlled number of fire fighters entered the towers. “The role these guys played was absolutely crucial and people need to be made aware of the fact that thanks to their intervention, 25'000 people were able to leave the buildings safely. “But the price was high, 343 fire fighters were among the 3'000 killed, but it was worth it. It was a heroic act of bravery and they all carried on working after the first tower collapsed, fully aware of the dangers and that they were risking their lives.” Having worked in New York for so many years, Triozzi knew the Towers well “I'd been in them so many times and many of the fire fighters who died were friends of mine.”

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