AUXILIARY firemen are mainly being used for trite roles such as arranging car parking and attending funerals and not firefighting, members of a delegation from the TT Auxiliary Fire Service complained on Wednesday.
Alleging Government has failed to enact requisite regulations to fully recognise their status, the delegation said members are demoralised and the country is losing a vital resource. With a sanctioned strength of 700, the number of active auxiliaries turning out to train twice each week is only about 400, with one officer remarking, “It has boiled right down.” They said the Fire Services Association had discussed the need to have auxiliary regulations with Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon a year ago but since then, they have heard nothing from Government. The regulations would allow auxiliaries to ride on fire-trucks alongside their full time colleagues, perform duties such as inspection of buildings and be outfitted with proper protective uniforms.
“Some have dropped out discouraged,” said one member. “As fast as we train auxiliaries we are losing them to the Army, Police Service and Prison Service, some are joining these other arms of National Security full time and others part time.” The delegation said that for the past year and a half a batch of auxiliaries has faced delays in their wait to be transferred to the full time Fire Service.
Querying the delay, he reasoned, “It is easier and cheaper to transfer them then for the regular Fire Service to hire and train a fresh batch of civilians.”
One officer lamented the current neglect of auxiliaries as an ironic slap in the face. “It is a gross disrespect to auxiliaries because the first Fire Service in TT was actually first established as an auxiliary force, but now we are getting no respect.”
The delegation members said the Auxiliary Fire Service Act 1979 (section 11) clearly stipulates that auxiliary officers have the same “powers, authority, privileges and immunities” as regular fire officers, perform the same duties and have the same responsibilities.