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VI Fire & Rescue is 'flying blind'- Zebalon A. McLean

- said his department was severely damaged & cannot carry out its duties effectively
The Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue headquarter building that was destroyed during the passage of Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017. Photo: VINO
One of the vehicles donated to the VI Fire and Rescue by the United Kingdom (UK) government. Photo: VINO
One of the vehicles donated to the VI Fire and Rescue by the United Kingdom (UK) government. Photo: VINO
Chief Fire Officer, Zebalon A. McLean. Photo: VINO/File
Chief Fire Officer, Zebalon A. McLean. Photo: VINO/File
The roof of the VI Fire and Rescue headquarter that was damaged by Hurricane Irma. Photo: VINO
The roof of the VI Fire and Rescue headquarter that was damaged by Hurricane Irma. Photo: VINO
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI - Like many departments throughout the territory that were destroyed by category 5 Hurricane Irma, Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue took a severe hit that completely left them blind in the midst of a devastating time.

In an exclusive interview with our newsroom, Chief Fire Officer Mr Zebalon A. McLean, he revealed that the headquarters lost their roof during hurricane Irma which resulted in massive loss of all communication equipment, documents and furniture.

"The roof went and the rain came in like Niagara falls. We lost the security cameras, communication equipment and we lost all the electronic systems. So right now we are flying kind of blind. We lost everything on the upper floor," explained Mr McLean.

The Fire and Rescue Chief expressed that having no communication with the public directly has "compromised" their duty to serve the public.

"We are officers but we are not supermen"

While conveying that his team are trained to do rescue missions, during hurricane Irma they could not respond to calls that they received due to the severity of the storm.

He said, "Persons called and they were telling us that they need help but no one could go outside. We are officers and we do rescue but we are not supermen," adding that they would have been struck by debris or even killed if they went outside during the hurricane.

There were at least forty persons that sought shelter at the headquarters during the eye of hurricane Irma, according to Mr McLean.

He also told our news reporter that there were at least twenty officers on duty and they were ready to assist persons following the hurricane.

After the catastrophic hurricane, the first order of business for the department was to clear the roads as they were the only department that did not need authorisation to be on the road at that time. Additionally, they answered distress calls from the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC).

"We assisted with bandaging and transporting persons to the hospital. Persons who were trapped, injured, hungry and frightened, officers were going out to different places trying to get debris out to either take something to them or bring them to the hospital," explained the chief.

As a result of Hurricane Irma, some of the departments vehicle were badly damaged but the United Kingdom (UK) government donated two replacement fire and rescue vehicles.

Pleading for attention and funding

Mr McLean is hoping that his department will get some assistance in rebuilding the departments headquarters that was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma.

"Right now its like we are outdoors and it is very uncomfortable," expressed the chief, while noting that his department is not expecting everything to be replaced overnight but just something to make the officers comfortable.

Thankful for the aid

The Fire and Rescue chief disclosed to our news reporter that he is very thankful for the aid that the territory has been receiving and most importantly thankful for his Fire and Rescue team.

"I am actually quite humbled at the level of efforts and I must thank our officers who have their own issues but still continue to work and do there best," said the fire chief.

He went on to thank the government of Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados who sent fire officers, paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs):

"I'm thankful for them and that's a gesture I can never forget."

7 Responses to “VI Fire & Rescue is 'flying blind'- Zebalon A. McLean”

  • phone (13/10/2017, 09:40) Like (4) Dislike (2) Reply
    My first day back at work we gave road town fire station a basic telephone and internet line, there should be some type of communication.
    • Caribbean Girl (13/10/2017, 14:21) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
      Perhaps is the same situation as the generator given to the police department. It got STOLEN! Someone took home?
      • wize up (13/10/2017, 20:10) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        @ caribbean girl: what kind of station the commissioner running the stealing the bikes and now you here dating some person or persons went with generator: looks lost like the police needs police to police the police or put a security firm around the police department
  • DON Q (13/10/2017, 09:52) Like (5) Dislike (1) Reply
    Go talk to mark quick he is now acting minister of finance
  • nonsense (13/10/2017, 12:56) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    Hey couldve kept the damn military here to assist with things like this. Our pride and stupid behavior will be our undoing!!!!
  • ccc (13/10/2017, 17:29) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Hope the fire chief is not victimised

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