BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (Friday 7th May 2021)- Here in the Federation of St.Kitts and Nevis, firefighters, along with protecting lives and rescuing human beings from dangerous situations, are also involved in saving animals as part of their duties.

“Any life, we hold sacred. That of human beings and also animals.”

That information was revealed by Fire Sub Station Officer Timothy Martin of the St.Kitts-Nevis Fire & Rescue Services department during an interview with this media house, stemming from the observance of International Firefighters’ Day (IFFD), commemorated worldwide on 4th May in the aftermath of a deadly bushfire incident that claimed the lives of five (5) firefighters on duty in Australia in December 1998.

“This is not an easy job. On a regular basis, you don’t find people sacrificing their lives to save other people unless it is for a family member or close friend but as firefighters, we do this on a daily basis for people we don’t even know.”

He added: “We are rescuers. We are trained extensively to extinguish hazardous fires that threaten life, property and environment as well as to rescue people and also animals from dangerous situations.”

 Providing details of past rescue scenarios involving animals, Martin highlighted that “We have had dogs trapped in holes, cats that got their heads stuck in a wire fence and a cat stuck in a tree situation that we had to do a rescue for a family. We’ve even had a cattle that fell into a septic tank at a new home that was under construction.”

On the day of observance (Monday 4th May 2021), fire officers on the island caught the eyes and ears of onlookers running through the streets for an official run exercise coupled with drill display.

Highlight of a Run event organized by the St.Kitts-Nevis Fire & Rescue Services as fire officers are seen going about the Bay Road (photo provided)

The routes included leaving the department’s compound located on Pond Road turning on Sandown Road and onto the Bay Road heading west then on to Fort Street next westerly along Cayon Street then down Church Street, east along Liverpool Rowe then up Fort Street.

The display was staged at the intersection of Central and Fort Streets.

Martin highlighted that this time around instead of a regular hosting of an IFFD week of activities, due to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s observance was narrowed down to that day’s activity along with a shirt sale geared towards bringing awareness.

In rating the day’s event, he said: “It was very good. The officers enjoyed it. I wish to thank the public for their support for coming out and seeing what fire officers do.”

He said the shirt sale went well also and that only a few were left.

Additionally, he thanked persons and businesses who contributed towards a recent donation to fire fighter colleagues in St.Vincent and the Grenadines due to the current volcanic activity.

Martin informed that as a result of the public’s assistance his Department was able to send off 100 cases of water.

Efforts continue in this regard, and members of the public are being encouraged to give further assistance to the cause. To this end, interested persons can visit the department and make contact with Martin, Fire Sub Station Officer Romel Williams or sports coordinator Linel Richardson.

In sharing details about the fatal 1998 incident in Australia, he stated: “On that day, there was a huge bush fire and additional firefighters were called to assist in the area where it took place. Linton is a populated area in Victoria, Australia. They (the five fire officers) were heading to the scene, there was a shift in the wind and the flames engulfed their appliance (truck). Anyone who knows about bushfires in Australia knows that they are serious wildfires and with the vast amount of shrubberies, the fire was immense. These fire officers essentially lost their lives while battling an inferno and ever since then, the day has been commemorated because of their bravery and heroism.“

Killed were: Matthew Armstrong, Jason Thomas, Stuart Davidson, Chris Evans and Garry Vredeveldt. 

Williams has extended gratitude to all past fire officers around the world “who would have paved the way for present fire officers and the future ones to come.”