In a first, 2 Somali-Americans joining ranks of St. Paul firefighters

By Katrina Pross

The newest firefighters in St. Paul and Minneapolis graduated Friday, including two men who will be the first Somali-American firefighters in St. Paul and possibly the state and nation.

Twenty-three firefighter recruits for St. Paul graduated, including seven women. Eighteen recruits graduated for Minneapolis. The graduates make up a unique and diverse group, from war veterans to Division I athletes, said St. Paul Deputy Fire Chief Roy Mokosso.

Abdi Warsame laughs with fellow St. Paul Fire Department recruits while training at the East Metro Public Safety Training Center in Maplewood on Thursday, June 20, 2019. Warsame is one of the first two Somali-American firefighters in the department. (Andy Rathbun / Pioneer Press)

Abdi Warsame, 28, and Mohamed Daoud, 24, will be the first Somali-American firefighters in St. Paul. Mokosso said they likely are also the first in Minnesota and the United States.

Daoud was born in Somalia in 1995 and fled the country with his family during the civil war that ravaged it.

Mohamed Daoud gets instructions during St. Paul Fire Department training at the East Metro Public Safety Training Center in Maplewood on Thursday, June 20, 2019. (Andy Rathbun / Pioneer Press)

He spent part of his life in Kenya, where he finished middle school. He immigrated to the U.S. in 2014. Now a St. Paul resident, Daoud worked in emergency medical services for three years until he learned that the department was hiring firefighters.

“I turned in my application, and I couldn’t believe they accepted me into the academy,” he said.

Daoud said he’s excited to serve the community as one of its first Somali-American firefighters.

“Just to have someone who is a Somali firefighter, it means a lot to fellow Somalis who live in St. Paul, and when they call for help and somebody who looks like them and understands them shows up in their time of need, I think that’s very amazing, and I’m honored to be someone that can help them,” he said.

Warsame also was born in Somalia, and he came to the U.S. in 1996 when he was about 6. His family stayed in Syracuse, N.Y., for a few months before moving to St. Paul, where he lives now.

Warsame also worked in EMS. He said he was inspired to become a firefighter during a ride-along session and witnessing the firefighters’ camaraderie.

“They do a lot of stuff together, which opened my eyes … there’s more to it,” he said. “They’re really connected to each other, and that’s the side that I wanted to be a part of. It inspired me and motivated me. That’s where I want to be, that’s where I see myself.”

Warsame said he hopes that younger generations will follow in his footsteps.

“(Somali-American firefighters) are something that’s not seen. But the St. Paul Fire Department changed that; they wanted to represent the communities they serve, so this is the best way to do it,” he said.

The newest additions to the fire department graduated after completing 14 weeks of training. The firefighters joining the St. Paul department will mainly fill current vacancies.

Mokosso said he believes it’s the first time St. Paul and Minneapolis held their fire training academy together, and it highlights how the two cities often work together, especially if there’s a large incident that requires as many first responders as possible.

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