Relief is in sight for the understaffed Saint Lucia Fire Service (SLFS).
The relief is being anticipated from forty trainees who began training on Wednesday in Vieux Fort to become full-fledged members of the SLFS.
The training programme will last for three months.
Acting Fire Chief Joseph Joseph told the Times there was a critical need for manpower at the SLFS.
“As we speak we have shortages at all the stations throughout the Island – in some cases we have just about five persons on duty at any one time even at Fire Service headquarters,” Joseph disclosed.
He explained that as a result, at times only one ambulance can be manned.
The Acting Fire Chief said that manpower resources at the Fire Service headquarters are in single digits.
Asked what would be a comfortable number to work with, he explained that when the population was less and there was less development there were about seventeen persons on duty at any one time.
Joseph told the Times that having thirteen persons on duty at headquarters would be considered a big number.
He stated that as a bare minimum, at least four persons are needed to man a fire appliance, two for an ambulance and one person to be in the Control Room.
“If you have just eight persons it means you can only man one ambulance and we have two fire trucks at headquarters and a rescue unit that we have to man, so we are looking at no less than thirteen,” Joseph stated.
The Acting Chief Fire Officer said the lack of manpower inhibits the operations of the service.
He recalled that just last weekend there were two fires in the Castries area and the Gros Islet Fire Station had to respond to one when ordinarily, headquarters in Castries would have had the capacity to respond to both fires.
According to Joseph, persons have been complaining for years about the manpower shortages in the SLFS.
“They have been complaining of burnout and some persons are unable to proceed on vacation leave just so that the numbers can be kept to a minimum, so we await the successful completion of that training programme,” he told the Times.