The Chief Fire Officer of the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Services.

 

Bermuda's first evidence of fire protection dates back to 1840 when the Corporation of Hamilton purchased six leather buckets from New York.  In 1907 the Corporation approved regulations regarding the appointment of 36 volunteer fire-fighters, thus forming the Hamilton Fire Brigade.  However, following the Bermudiana Hotel fire of 1958, serious consideration was given to establishing a professional Fire Service. Fulltime fire-fighters were then hired to protect life and property on the island of Bermuda along with a core of volunteers. In 1982 the Bermuda Government was given full responsibility for Fire Service operations and fire safety, thus the Bermuda Fire Service was established.  In 1999 a two tiered emergency response system was introduced to reduce response times to persons experiencing traumatic and medical emergencies in the east and west ends of the island. With the introduction of emergency medical services, emergency calls have increased from an average of twelve hundred per year in 1999 to a projected 7,500 calls for calendar year 2007

 

The isolated nature of the island indicates that we have to be entirely self sufficient in dealing with a major emergency of any size. Therefore the amalgamation of the three separate fire service providers will provide a force of 180 operationally trained personnel and greater functionality under one command structure.  This fusion of Fire Service entities has identified a number of challenges. It is imperative the amalgamation strengthens our ability to deal with any emergencies on or off the airfield efficiently. Therefore, steps are being taken to upgrade the current operational training standards through a cross training initiative.

 

Fire safety is always a major concern. Several pieces of legislation have an impact on the Service as it relates to fire safety; however the Service has no direct enforcement powers under any of the current "fire related" legislation. Of even greater concern is that there is no "fire safety" legislation for Public Entertainment, or night clubs.  At present, existing commercial or office buildings do not have to conform to current fire safety standards once the building owners receive their initial fire certificate. This has resulted in fire safety systems not being maintained and some instances being shut off completely. This is a major risk to life safety. The proposed legislation will mitigate this threat and ensure that all building owners comply with present fire safety codes and standards on a regular basis to commence as early as October of 2007.

 

The Fire Service over the last two years has had to assess its current fleet. It was discovered that due to the increase in the numbers of emergency responses and the added load weight on the vehicles, the Service's vehicle maintenance costs and repair times were steady increasing. The Service undertook the task of finding a more suitable fire truck. After considering numerous options, a contract was agreed with an American company that has been producing purpose built chassis for over twenty years. These new vehicles will not only be purpose built, but be built with an added weight load capacity. The new design will assist the Service in reducing maintenance costs and vehicle repair times.  The Fire Service is not all about plant and machinery, the building blocks of this organization rests with the development and training of its people.  It is the objective of the Service to cross train personnel in structural fire fighting and aircraft rescue fire fighting to facilitate the flexibility for transfer between the Divisions.

 

In summary, the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service have enjoyed continued growth and development since the purchase of the six leather buckets.  It is our hope that in the future we will continue to build upon the legacy that was started one hundred and sixty seven years ago by providing the community with fire protection, community safety practices and timely, quality and effective medical emergency service