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Fire Chief laments ‘sheep pen’ condition at station

Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Service headquarters in Road Town, Tortola.

Four months after Hurricane Irma unleashed a nightmare of devastation on the territory, officers at the Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Service are still living that nightmare inside a cramped, mold-infested headquarter building in Road Town.

It’s a condition that Chief Fire Officer, Zebalon McLean has likened to that of a sheep pen.

“We have been trying to remain committed to the job, but the best way I can describe it, to be honest, is the officers are living in something like a sheep pen. It is really demoralizing to them to know that they always give it their best and they have not been able to see a bit more support coming their way,” McLean lamented during an exclusive interview with BVI News Online.

Giving a rundown of the condition at the station the fire chief noted that during the hurricane the roof was destroyed, resulting in the upstairs section of the building being flooded. The downstairs section was also impacted.

“So we have no more administrative offices, no more storeroom, no more filing room, no more conference rooms, no more kitchen, no more lounges, no more records, no more computers…nothing at all upstairs,” he said.

Plyboards are being used to cover gaping holes and serving as makeshift windows and doors to protect fire officers from the elements.

Mold Infestation

As if the structural issues were not enough, the fire chief said his officers are also battling a mold infestation.

As a result, the lockers in the barracks had to be dismantled while clothing and other personal belongings for the men under his command have had to be discarded.

“It has been very difficult for them to breathe in that environment and with the place open, the dust can easily get in,” McLean said.

He further argued that while he understands that they are not the only civil servants facing hardship at this time because of the hurricane, he thinks their long working hours put them at a greater disadvantage.

“Every building that house government officials had been affected, but one of the main differences between us and other government departments is the fact that the officers have to be on duty 24-hours, which include the night time hours. So you have many government officers who would go to their buildings in the day and they have gaping holes and windows and doors missing, but when they finish they go home. Our officer’s do not have that luxury.”

Quick Action Needed

While calling for quick action to be taken to address condition at the station, he said the Public Works Department had shown him sketches of a plan to remodel the building.

McLean said however that it is difficult to ask for patience from his staff while the plan is being worked on, especially since there have been no comforting words coming from any high-ranking member of Government.

“What I would like to see is a greater level of consideration given to the fire service, given the fact that we save the country millions of dollars in damages a year. They look at the revenue-collecting departments and they look at how much money they bring into the territory, but they don’t look at our department and realize how much money we save the Government in damages each and every year.”

“So I would like if a bigger bone was being thrown our way considering what we have to do,” he argued.

Copyright 2018 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

25 Comments

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  1. Moka says:

    Nonsense. Those strong and healthy firemen are capable of putting a temporary covering on that building and cleaning it. Enough supplies were donated to the territory all the firemen need to do is provide the labor once public works provide a quick design and supervision.

    Not only should they try to fix their own building they and other government departments should be out trying to help homeowners (like those camped in the hospital and other public buildings).

    They dont fight fires every day. Stop whining and try to help yourself and others who are not physically able.

    • Glen says:

      You are an A$$ what are the fire officers line off training yes there are officers who are willing to run block or carpenter work but how many officers can mix cement lol if we was public Works we would had training in that field you look like you jealous

      • Moka says:

        @Glen

        If a bunch of active firemen together cannot mix cement then we in BVI are without hope. And if you are a trained spokesman then you need to ask the trainer for your money back.

    • That's the problem says:

      Too many are just sitting back moaning too lazy to get off their backsides and help out – maybe new firemen are needed? that have a better work ethic….

  2. John says:

    Zebalon you there saying where the men live is a sheep pen but how you bringing the men from Virgin Gorda to put in the same sheep pen to make them sick you up to no good you are no a good leader no sense that is just a sham you went to the media with zebalon you are the problem

  3. Nail Bay says:

    Since y’all don’t like spend money where is needed.Sell the dam fire station to me.

  4. Concerned says:

    I agree that the place needs work, but in the USA where I have relatives in similar size fire depts, the personel work!! They have built their own fire station and in another case, reparied one when the roof collapsed due to snow load. They do not sit in chairs waiting for calls.

  5. sam the man says:

    I think most see the reality – these poor firemen need to get off their backsides and sort out their own premises …laziness is not an excuse, lead by example and sort out your own back yard ..

  6. Mmmm says:

    Sam is right but not popular I’m sure – these firemen need to step up and sort their own premises out rather than sitting back and complaining – a current big issue nationwide – “get up and do something rather than sit back and moan…”

  7. Billionaire says:

    Wow, sort our premises..,Professionals are normally hired to deal with mold!!! Where are they going the money to replace the lost items? It’s aN obvious cry for assistance

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