Cayman seeks new fire chief

Customs, immigration jobs also in flux

Job advertisements for a full-time Cayman Islands chief fire officer went out this week, some 21 months after the fire service’s last permanent chief left his post in April 2013.  

The top fire job has been filled since then by a series of acting chiefs, including Rosworth McLaughlin, Roy Grant, and now John Bodden.  

The fire service is one of three major public safety departments in Cayman that have no permanent leadership.  

The Immigration Department has an acting chief, Bruce Smith, who took over following the suspension of Linda Evans in December. Meanwhile, the Customs Service has been unable to hire anyone to replace former Collector Carlon Powery in five attempts to advertise the job.  

The chief fire officer’s position, according to advertisements, pays between $96,000 and $118,000 per year.  

The job requirements include “significant and recent” fire service management experience at a senior level. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in fire service, fire management or public administration with 10 years at a management level or 15 years of management firefighting experience is required.  

Troubled service 

A consultant’s report completed last year, and which has yet to be released publicly, revealed numerous problems in the fire service, including that Cayman Islands Fire Service crews often feel like outcasts among the other local emergency service agencies.  

“There is no question there is low morale amongst firefighters,” said Peter Holland, the U.K.’s chief fire and rescue adviser, who completed the report pro bono for the Cayman Islands government.  

Mr. Holland spent several hours speaking with local fire crews about issues in the service, after he and colleague David Norris were invited by government to review the fire service. One of the major issues identified was the lack of updated protective equipment for fire crews, Mr. Holland said. “That’s a big factor as far as the firefighters are concerned,” he said.  

According to 911 statistics from the 2012/13 government budget year, between July 2012 and June 2013, the Emergency Medical Services [ambulances] received 3,570 calls for service. The fire service received 867 calls for service during the same period. However, whether or not there is a fire call, crews still have to staff the stations. The fire service was attending an average of just more than two calls per day during that budget year. The local ambulance service was attending nearly 10 calls a day during the same period.  

In addition, Mr. Holland noted that while both police and emergency medical crews were using Cayman’s advanced 911 Emergency Communications Centre to their advantage, the fire service had not done so, leaving crews feeling distanced from the action.  

“They don’t dispatch fire engines directly from that facility,” he said.  

Legal action  

Cayman’s former top firefighter sought the Grand Court’s permission to challenge what he said was his forced retirement from the service last year, a decision he claims he was never allowed to contest. 

Meanwhile, government officials, in a statement sent to the Cayman Compass, denied that the then-acting fire chief, Rosworth McLaughlin, 55, had been terminated from his post and confirmed he still receives a government salary.  

The retirement was ordered to “improve the efficiency of the Cayman Islands Fire Service,” according to court records filed on behalf of Mr. McLaughlin. However, government officials indicated no such decision had been made, and that the court action had been filed in the midst of negotiations with Mr. McLaughlin over a “settlement package.”  

Mr. McLaughlin, a deputy chief fire officer who was named acting fire chief last year, also claims in the court filing that the Civil Service Appeals Commission refused to hear his appeal against the April 29 decision. Mr. McLaughlin’s request seeks monetary relief for what he terms the “unlawful and unconstitutional actions” against him.  

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