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Under pressure fire chief retires with immediate effect

Lloyd Burchall (File photograph)

Embattled Chief Fire Officer, Lloyd Burchall, has stepped down from his post, effective immediately, the Ministry of National Security has announced.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Dana Lovell was appointed Acting Fire Chief “with immediate effect”.

Mr Burchall succeeded Vincent Hollinsid in the position in May 2013 but faced a vote of no confidence from the firefighters’ union last month.

His retirement caps four decades with the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service, which he joined in February 1982.

A ministry spokesman said he had served as firefighter, leading firefighter; sergeant in the Operations and Training Divisions, Lieutenant/Lead Recruit Instructor, and divisional officer in Operations.

Mr Burchall’s retirement comes with the BFRS facing several challenges.

Michael Weeks, the national security minister, gave Mr Burchall his support on April 21 after the Fire Service Association, the BFRS trade union, passed a vote of no confidence.

Mr Weeks said then: “The management of the fire service enjoys the full support of the Minister of National Security as they work tirelessly to respond effectively and timely to the emergency calls from the public.”

Firefighters have expressed concern at a lack of funding, manpower and upgraded equipment for several years.

The dispute flared up in November when firefighters at the Clearwater station in St David’s were instructed to operate both the station’s fire truck and ambulance with a crew of only four.

The Fire Service Association, which represents rank-and-file members of the BFRS, said that a team of six firefighters needed to be on duty to man both vehicles safely.

Since then, The Royal Gazette reported that the East End was left uncovered by the fire service for several hours on at least five days a week without drafting in fire crews from central and western parishes so that there were enough firefighters on call for the airport.

LF Wade International Airport has also had its fire safety rating reduced to a category 5 firefighting capability rating – notifying airlines that a crew of only five firefighters is available for emergencies at the facility.

A minimum of eight firefighters must be on call for an airport to be given a category 7 rating – the next level up – while 15 firefighters must be on duty for an airport to be given the top category 9 rating.

Mr Weeks announced last month that the service was looking at bringing back retired officers to fill staff shortages and was also launching a recruitment of 11 trainee firefighters.

Yesterday, Mr Weeks thanked Mr Burchall for “40 years of distinguished service to the people of Bermuda”.

“On behalf of the Ministry of National Security, I wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”

Cherie Whitter, the Acting Head of the Public Service, said she was “extremely grateful for Mr Burchall’s dedicated service”, calling his leadership “invaluable”.

“For more than 40 years, Mr Burchall has demonstrated his commitment to safeguarding the island.

“During this period, he accumulated the education, training and experience needed to advance through the ranks, ultimately overseeing efficient and effective emergency services for the people of Bermuda.

“On behalf of the Public Service Executive, I extend my appreciation to Mr Burchall and wish him well in his retirement.”