PORTAGE | After a night of thunderous fireworks, a group of German firefighters discovered a different kind of blast Thursday morning - a refreshing one.
"This is called a Monsoon. It's a deck gun," Portage Fire Department Lt. Andy Himan told the group as thousands of gallons of Lake Michigan water flowed through the cannon-like nozzle atop the department's Marine 1 firefighting boat.
About a dozen firefighters from the Baumberg and Monheim areas in Germany and their families have been vacationing with Himan and his family, seeing some of the region's sights and learning some of the differences in firefighting techniques and apparatus.
"There are many things in common," Jurgen Anhalt said.
Anhalt, the chief of his volunteer department, met Himan about 10 years ago at a firefighting conference in Indianapolis.
Himan said they kept in touch and have been visiting each other's hometowns.
"We went to Germany, visited there," Himan said. "We've been flip-flopping for the past four or five years."
After spending a half-shift with firefighters in Chesterton earlier in the week, Portage Chief Tom Fieffer, Asst. Chief Joe Calhoun, dive team leader Tom Colvin and Himan all showed the group Marine 1, the department's newest firefighting tool.
Christened last month, Fieffer said the nearly $300,000 boat, paid for by a federal grant, has already responded to eight emergency situations.
Colvin said the boat features state-of-the-art equipment the department's former marine unit didn't have and with its ability to pump water directly from Lake Michigan, the 36-foot vessel is the only firefighting boat between Chicago and Michigan.
Anhalt said he was looking forward to getting out on Lake Michigan and seeing the boat in action. While his hometown has rivers, it's nothing like Lake Michigan.
Himan said two of the German firefighters will be returning in September for a motorcycling trip through the Smoky Mountains.
He said getting to meet with his German counterparts is something he looks forward to each year.
"No matter what country you're from, firefighters are firefighters," Himan said.