Today was graduation day for 24 trainees who are now firefighters for the National Fire Service.This is the first course graduation ceremony for 2016. The training the all-male group received included understanding the origin and development of fire and the specific techniques used to contain it. However, the Fire Service’s duties have expanded to include search and rescue and responding to road traffic accidents, especially those with severe injuries and loss of life.The Service falls under the Ministry of Works, Transport and National Emergency Management Organization; main speaker Minister Edmond Castro heads the latter two portfolios. The Fire Service is operating with cumbersome and sometimes inefficient equipment and homeowners who lose everything they have to fire often complain that it was because the fire truck did not get there quickly enough or was unprepared when it arrived. Minister Castro told us that while the Government is seeing to the Service’s needs, he hopes Belizeans will have a little more understanding:
Edmond Castro, Minister of NEMO: I think the biggest challenge is that people need to realize that most of the vehicles are outdated and they are very slow. We have some probably as old as thirty, forty years…so when you look at the average age of our fire trucks, they’re probably thirty years and older. Now what we are trying to do is – I brought it up to Cabinet and we are looking at in terms of strengthening up the Fire Department with some additional vehicles so that we can be more efficient.
The class’ valedictorian is Johnny Cardenas, with second place going to Rudolph McKoy. Training lasted for fifteen weeks.