Dennom Bodden officially took over as chief officer of the Cayman Islands Fire Service on Friday with the realisation he will likely need to hire more than 30 new firefighters within the next year.
It’s a 20 per cent increase in the overall staff of the department, which stands at about 155 people. Some of the hires will be to fill vacant positions, which Mr. Bodden says the department has about 10 of right now. Another 24 will be needed to fill additional staff positions, which will come on line when the Bodden Town Emergency Response Centre opens early next year.
‘It’s a big increase at one time to get 24 new people into your system,’ Mr. Bodden said. ‘But it gives us much better response time.’
Right now, the two fire stations that cover Cayman’s eastern districts are at Owen Roberts International Airport and Frank Sound. Eventually, the plan is to move the department’s main headquarters from the airport to the Bodden Town centre.
Both the airport and Frank Sound stations will remain open.
Mr. Bodden said he’d like to bring in the new hires for the Bodden Town station in two separate groups to allow enough time for training. After an initial evaluation, Cayman Islands fire fighters generally receive at least 20 weeks of on the job instruction and must serve a year in probationary status before fully joining the department.
He expects advertising for the new positions will begin soon. Fire service applicants must be Caymanian status-holders between the ages of 18 and 35, although Mr. Bodden said candidates over 35 can qualify if they are in good shape.
In addition to the new hires, the Cayman Islands Fire Service may also need to fill some of its higher-ranking jobs in the future.
Of the 12 top ranking officers in the fire service, six are 50 or older, which according to civil service law means they are eligible to retire. Two of the six are older than 55.
However, Mr. Bodden doesn’t see it as a pressing problem at the moment.
Although they can retire at any time after reaching age 50, firefighters who joined the service after 1980 must work until 60 to receive full pension. Those who’ve served since before 1980 can retire with full pension after age 55.
However, Mr. Bodden said just because officers can retire at age 50 or 55 doesn’t mean they will.
‘I’ll reach 55 in two years, but I don’t plan to leave then,’ he said.
He also noted there were personnel in the lower ranks who’ve been in the fire service a long time and could move up in the ranks to cover any management shortages.
‘Some of them have quite a lot of experience,’ he said.