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27 recruits join the National Fire Service

General27 recruits join the National Fire Service

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Tues. June 18, 2024

A graduation ceremony was held at the House of Culture in Belize City on Monday, June 17, for 27 persons who have qualified to be Belize National Fire Service firefighters after enduring rigorous training and testing.

“They could have chosen any profession, but they chose to be a firefighter; for whatever reason or reasons, that’s on them, and the minute you step foot into the Fire Department, that is a whole new world. It’s a different level, and it’s just something that gives that thrill,” said Station Supervisor for the National Fire Service, Kenneth Mortis. “After many years in this profession, I still get that thrill whenever I hear that bell. I still get that excitement that these guys saw today. They move forward on the right foot; they face the challenges they will face ahead, and I think we have done all we can to prepare them for today,” he went on to say.

Initially, there had been 40 recruits, but during the process of training and examination, that group dwindled to 27, with 26 males and 1 female completing the course.

“The training was a grueling task, Monday to Saturday. We had some Sunday events a.m. and p.m. We had some events, because we had to get these guys in the mindset of what a fire is all about. A fire will not tell you, ‘I am coming tomorrow morning’. How many times have these statistics [shown] that fires happen after sunset? You are asleep, and there is a fire. What are you going to do? How are you going to feel? How are you going to deal with it? So, our instructors had to prepare these guys mentally and physically for the journey ahead,” Mortis said.

When Colin Gillett, Fire Chief at the National Fire Service, spoke to the media about how one can become a firefighter, he said that it all starts with 3 years of volunteering.

“A lot of people wanted to come in, but that’s why you volunteer, so you can become the first selected. We have a [set of] criteria. There is a whole syllabus of things that they have to learn, which is why we have a training officer; and those guys [go through] a mix of daily work in the classroom, learning about behavior and understanding how it works, and things like that. In the afternoon, then they do the practical,” he said.

“When people are running away from the fire, these are the guys who will be running towards it. And it’s not just fires anymore; it’s also rescue. If there’s a collapsed building; if there [are] people who need to be rescued in swift water, for example, our guys are being trained for that as well in specializing. So, we’re very excited about expanding all the services that we offer,” he further mentioned.

It has been a while since a recruitment troop was added to the current team of firefighters in the country – 7 years to be exact. Gillett noted that those 27 graduates will be stationed in different parts of the country, particularly in the Cayo District, where the need is greater.

Currently, there are less than 200 firefighters countrywide. The 11-week training ended on March 22.

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