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Aug 1, 2012

Are firefighters ready to pass the test?

Earlier this week, a group of fire fighters were undertaking table top training to move up the ladder in fire fighting. Well today, they went out to the Western Highway to put theory to work and to test their tactical skills in case of a fire. The media was invited but alas the exercise had to be called off. Let’s just say, the fire fighters weren’t ready. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Nine leading fire fighters up for promotion to sub-station officers took part in a practical fire simulation exercise at the Belize Foam Factory at mile two and a half on the western highway. The arrival of the team was signaled by the blaring fire engine as the trainees scramble for equipment to carry out their rescue efforts of the fire. From the onset the performance of the team wasn’t up to par.


Ted Smith, Assistant Fire Chief, National Fire Service

Ted Smith

“The scenario is that a fire broke out at the eastern section of the second story, first floor; three occupants or employees of the company are accounted for. They worked in that section of the building, they did not make it out so on the arrival of the fire team they were duly informed of the situation and a rescue attempt was conducted. The commanding officer deployed two rescue and also a fire suppression team. The rescuer went in much early in comparison to the fire suppression team or because the fire suppression team was late in advancing to provide a support or cover fire for the rescuers, they have now become casualty themselves. They were trapped by the fire and sustained burn injuries.”


The news of the casualties was passed on to the ground commander. The simulation exercise, which from all accounts appeared to be disorganized and slow in coming, continued for a couple more minutes but eventually was called off as a failure.


Ted Smith

“Today the exercise have revealed that there are some additional points that we need to refine on; as a result of that we will be running some additional table top exercises this week followed by next week Tuesday, another simulation exercise of similar magnitude. I want to point out that this exercise is a part of the practical assessment for the officers that are doing a promotional training course; therefore, we look at their capabilities whether they have grasped certain information from the training and whether they can apply this information from the training.”


And while it was obvious that the nine officers performed below standards, fortunately for Belizeans, Smith says these officers won’t be ground commanders in a real life scenario any time soon:


Ted Smith

“Yes, but if it was a real fire scene they wouldn’t have been the commanders on the ground. Myself, and others such as the operations officer and the chief would be the commanders on the ground and we know what to do, we are just trying to bring them up to our standards.”


Patrick Jones, Love TV

“Is this a big F?”


Ted Smith

“It’s part of the learning process,; a training exercise and these are to identify challenges so that we can fix it and what we will do now go back to the drawing board and do a critique of the performance and then conduct additional table top exercises to improve, rectify whatever we were not satisfy with today.”


Fire Chief, Francis Thomas, says that the officers will be tested for a second time; this failed operation will not be used to determine their promotion but used as a measure to improve shortcomings.


Francis Thomas, Fire Chief, Belize National Fire Service

“We were looking at inter-agency management because there are a lot of other agencies that work as a part of the work team to deal with the fire so their ability to command and control to talk to the inter agencies that whatever they are doing is supportive of saving lives and property, so that was one of the concerns; the other concern is the ability to get a grip and control of their personnel; those are some of the issues that we are concerned with. I guess also a sense of urgency is what we are a bit concerned about but that probably comes from the fact that it isn’t a real fire might have aid to that and we will definitely talk to them and let them know to put more urgency into the way they perform.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


Since the practical aspect of the training accounts for seventy percent of their promotion marks, it is likely that the promotions will not be on the horizon as yet.

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1 Response for “Are firefighters ready to pass the test?”

  1. Storm says:

    Oops. Well, they say good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

    Better luck next time. I am happy to see efforts at training the firemen, anyway.

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