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May 5, 2016

National Fire Service Celebrates New Firefighters

This morning, the National Fire Service held its passing out ceremonies at headquarters in Belize City. Twenty-four have made the cut, surviving a very intensive training course to prepare them for the very demanding, real-life exercise of fighting fires and saving lives. It’s a proud occasion for the National Fire Service, and Mike Rudon was there to share it. Here’s the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Today’s ceremony was the culmination of a fifteen week training course. It was intense, with five persons unable to make it through the first two weeks. But this group of twenty-four is now ready and prepared to brave the fires of hell to save lives and property. This morning they proudly received the acknowledgment of their accomplishment and readiness for the task ahead, family, friends and fellow firefighters standing in support.It is the first passing out since the National Fire Service was placed under the political care of Minister Edmond Castro.

 

Edmond Castro, Minister of NEMO

Edmond Castro

“I think we are doing well…the new firefighters passing out today – we will have them dispatched throughout the country. Some will be going to PG, Corozal, San Pedro, to San Ignacio and so on, so I think we are trying our best to strengthen up the Fire Department and as I said earlier we will have some more training sometime this year as well.”

 

The firefighters demonstrated just a bit of what they had learned, and what they were trained to do, starting with a fire rescue drill.

 

Oren Smith

Oren Smith, Station Manager, National Fire Service

“The first depicted a rescue in a structure during a fire where the fire team had to go up the ladder first, meet the fire and hold the fire so that it did not advance or spread toward the area the rescue was to be performed. Then you had two rescuers that went in, located the victim and brought the victim over to where the ladder is placed. The method was a ladder crane rescue, a combination of ladders, ropes, stretchers, karabiners and knots used.”

 

But firefighting isn’t all about burning structures. These officers also play a key role in major traffic accidents, of which there are many on Belize’s major highways.

 

Oren Smith

“At an accident scene the firemen face risks to themselves as well as risks to the injured person. They must overcome the challenges of the incident scene while doing an assessment of the victim and of the wreckage – the number of vehicles and the number of victims and their conditions to ensure that they stabilize the scene, which means that they must disconnect battery terminals to prevent fires from developing…if these is leakage of fuel there is a whole scene that must be in place – that fuel can be covered with sand or foam to ensure that ignition does not occur. The vehicle itself must be stabilized before the rescue. Any power lines that are risky to rescuers must be dealt with, therefore other agencies like the electrical company is called in to make sure power lines are made safe.”

 

All this looks good, very good. But the National Fire Service faces real challenges.

 

Oren Smith

“We face quite a bit of challenges in our training because we lack adequate training facilities to support good training. We are in the planning stage literally to try and acquire a training academy for the department that would boost operational performance tremendously because it will enhance training capabilities significantly.”

 

Training – check. Readiness – check. But with all that, there is a problem with the resources which have been placed at the disposal of these firefighters.

 

Oren Smith

“The youngest vehicle that we have is sixteen years old, and we have vehicles that are over forty years old.”

 

Edmond Castro

“I think the biggest challenge is that people need to realize that most of the vehicles are outdated and they are very slow. We have some probably as old as thirty, forty years…so when you look at the average age of our fire trucks, they’re probably thirty years and older.”

 

Oren Smith

“These are past their time, so they get sick very often, and constantly need maintenance. Hence the reason we have great challenges with our vehicles at emergency scenes.”

 

Edmond Castro

“Now what we are trying to do is – I brought it up to Cabinet and we are looking at in terms of strengthening up the Fire Department with some additional vehicles so that we can be more efficient.”

 

Reporter

“Do you think that enough priority is being given to the Fire Department, because this isn’t the first time we have heard this cry for assistance. We have heard this for many years. The thing is the Fire Department is so critical because people can literally lose everything that they own in a matter of minutes, including their lives?”

 

Oren Smith

“That is a very good question. Unfortunately one that I am not in the position or at liberty to answer at this time.”

 

Question asked…question answered. Mike Rudon reporting for News Five.

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