Canadian firefighters a help but long-term solutions still needed says fire association
Canadian firefighters have helped to address staffing shortages within the fire service, but long-term solutions are still needed – according to the Bermuda Fire Service Association.
While spokesmen from the organisation said that staff shortfalls continued to be a problem, the arrival of ten overseas firefighters this month had assisted.
“Before they arrived, we had firefighters taking six or seven shifts in a row, which caused burnout,” a spokesman for the FSA said.
The FSA also said they were grateful that 11 new firefighters would be trained up to further bolster numbers.
However they said it was likely the new firefighters would not be fully trained by the time the overseas firefighters’ three-month contracts had ended.
“There are 11 people that are going through the process and that takes four or five months in itself,” a spokesman said, adding that additional training overseas would be needed if they are expected to tackle specialised work at LF Wade International Airport.
The FSA said it was not clear if the new firefighters would be earmarked specifically for the airport division, which will likely need greater manpower to sustain air service.
Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, told the House of Assembly earlier this month that two audits had been ordered to confirm how many firefighters would be needed at the airport.
He said the second audit was ordered after the initial audit found that 30 additional firefighters would have to be hired.
The FSA spokesman said they believed the second report is due tomorrow.
“We were running on five per shift, and now we are at eight per shift. It’s been estimated that the number could rise to 12 or even 15 per shift,” he said.
They said that while the airport division had operated with 13 firefighters, the audit could recommend that number to rise to 45 or 50.
The FSA said that while they were grateful to have the assistance of the Canadian firefighters, opportunities need to be made available for Bermudians.
“The Government is well aware of the staff shortages that the fire service is facing, and there is no shortage of Bermudians who are more than willing to take up that opportunity,” a spokesman said.
They said the $436,000 used for the overseas firefighters could have been used to train up Bermudians and reduce the need for overseas personnel had action been taken sooner.
Staff shortages earlier in the year had forced several temporary fire station closures, but the FSA said that problem had largely been addressed.
They said trouble did arise briefly at the Clearwater Fire Station because of the breakdown of a vehicle, but other fire stations were able to cover the east end while repairs were made.
“The vehicles are ageing,” a spokesman said. “A lot of them are over ten years old and so we are starting to get a lot more mechanical failures.”