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Union: Fire Service needs more than 11 new recruits

All fired up: Bermuda Fire Service personnel are desperate for more staff (File photograph)

Plans to recruit 11 new firefighters received a lukewarm response from the Fire Service Association.

Michael Weeks, the Minister for National Security, made the announcement on Thursday. Earlier in the week he said staff shortages within the service could also be met by drafting in retired firefighters.

Mr Weeks, who has been minister for less than a month, made the decision after holding meetings with Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service management and the Fire Service Association, which represents rank-and-file members of the service.

The FSA has repeatedly complained about a lack of manpower and equipment and has issued two 21-day strike notices in the past six months. Earlier this month members also passed a vote of no confidence in the island’s chief fire officer, Lloyd Burchall.

At a press conference yesterday, Nakia Pearson, the president of the FSA, said that an additional 45 firefighters were needed to bring the service up to full strength.

He said: “It’s not sufficient. By no means would it alleviate the problems that are currently occurring within the fire service and how it directly affects the community going forward.”

But Mr Pearson also acknowledged that the move was a step in the right direction and that the Government was constrained by a limited budget.

He said: “At this point we have to recognise that government has a fiscal responsibility to all of the organisations on the island.

“So, if this is the only means by which they can supply additional manpower then we are grateful and we accept it.”

A spokesman for the FSA later applauded the Government for listening to firefighter concerns and finally taking action.

The spokesman said: “While 11 recruits is not nearly enough to safely meet the operational requirements of the BFRS, we are grateful the Government has heard our concerns and the service has been allowed to begin hiring.”

But it will be months before the new recruits are able to respond to 911 calls. According to Mr Weeks, selected candidates will have to undergo a six-month training course before they qualify as firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

The FSA spokesman said: “We recognise it won't be an overnight fix, but it is a start in the right direction.

“Our hope is that the mutual understanding of what needs to be done, and the willingness to work together, will lead to restoring morale among our ranks and future recruit courses to fully bolster the manpower of the BFRS so that the community can safely receive the quality of service they deserve.

“We'd like to personally thank [former National Security Minister Renee] Ming and Minister Weeks, as well as Permanent Secretary Farrow for working tirelessly to help us in these difficult times.”

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Published April 30, 2022 at 7:44 am (Updated April 30, 2022 at 7:44 am)

Union: Fire Service needs more than 11 new recruits

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