UK fire service veteran named new chief

For the first time since the Cayman Islands Fire Service was created, a non-Caymanian has been appointed to lead the department. 

David Hails was introduced Monday during an afternoon meeting to local firefighters as the department’s new chief fire officer. He told those assembled he was “delighted” to be in Cayman. 

He will begin his three-year contract in the role on Feb. 1, 2016. 

Mr. Hails left his position at the Serco International Fire Training Centre in the U.K. earlier this year after eight years of service there. Prior to that, he worked as a fire officer at the U.K. Ministry of Defense. He has 37 years of experience in the firefighting profession, and Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush said the government was pleased to have someone of Mr. Hails’s caliber in the post. 

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said Monday that the ministry had made every effort to appoint a Caymanian for the role. 

“We have been striving for almost two years to recruit a suitable person as fire chief. I have been adamant that we should endeavor to appoint a Caymanian and I am fully aware of the means taken by the ministry to do so,” said Premier Alden McLaughlin. “Unfortunately, that has not been possible at this time, which I find most disappointing. 

“I am satisfied, however, that someone of Mr. Hails’s caliber and experience will provide the required leadership of the fire service at this point. I believe that his recruitment will enable the future training and up-skilling of Caymanian fire officers and that before long there will be a cadre of Caymanian officers capable of assuming the helm of this essential service.” 

Mr. Hails said Monday, “I am committed to developing the Cayman Islands Fire Service into an organization that the citizens and the government of the Cayman Islands can be proud of.” 

Mr. Hails’s appointment comes after a scathing review of the local fire service was released to the Cayman Compass earlier this year. 

That review uncovered major staffing, operational and training deficiencies within the fire service, documented in a report issued last year, but which had been kept under wraps until a Cayman Compass open records request forced government to produce it. 

The review by England’s Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor Peter Holland at the request of the Cayman Islands Ministry of Home Affairs questioned basic competencies of fire service officers and management, leading to observations that the department is overstaffed to meet the Cayman community’s firefighting needs. Meanwhile, key areas such as building safety inspections and emergency medical services have gone begging for resources. 

“This review discovered a pervading view that firefighters are ‘well paid to do nothing,’” Mr. Holland stated in his 22-page report. The senior U.K. firefighter said, on a more positive note, that Cayman Islands Fire Service staff members wanted to improve both in their own professional development and to better assist local communities, but were being held up by an often ineffective management regime. 

“Improvements and recommendations detailed in this report are unlikely to be implemented successfully unless there is a significant improvement in the performance of the management team,” Mr. Holland said. 

Political issues 

Premier McLaughlin said in June that he would not support the hiring of a non-Caymanian fire chief, during a debate in the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee. 

“I don’t know what the result of this process is going to be … but don’t ask me to endorse the appointment of a non-Caymanian chief fire officer because that I will not do,” Mr. McLaughlin said during the debate, acknowledging that the elected ministers have ostensibly no role in civil service hiring. 

“We have had a Caymanian chief fire officer since the establishment of the fire service in 1956. It would be a retrograde step of the highest magnitude for us, in 2015, to say that we have to recruit a chief fire officer who is not Caymanian.” 

There were significant problems recruiting a full-time, permanent fire chief since Dennom Bodden left the post two-and-a-half years ago. 

Since then, various acting chiefs have been placed in that role, including Rosworth McLaughlin, Roy Grant and current chief fire officer John Bodden. Rosworth McLaughlin ended up suing the department, while Mr. John Bodden was arrested in connection with a January hit-and-run accident. Mr. Grant, who had already retired from the service, was brought in to fill the leadership gap on a part-time basis only. 

The government tried to hire a full-time chief last year but was unable to do so following a recruitment process. A second hiring process led to the recruitment of Mr. Hails. 

Cayman’s new fire chief, David Hails, center, with Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush, left, and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson.

Cayman’s new fire chief, David Hails, center, with Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush, left, and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now


  1. A three year in house training program, i’ll pay for that.

    1. Produce a clean, lean, fighting machine.
    2. Succession planning; a cadre of fighters with leadership traits essential to mission readiness, and continuity. Everyone should be training their subordinate to take their job.
    4. Time restraints: Three years.
    5. Conflict of interest avoidance: Non renewal of contract, and/or incremental increase/decrease of bonus based on mission accomplishment.

    The training officer is always in charge of the training exercise regardless of the rank or experience of the trainee.

  2. Yaaawwwwnnnnn….

    Can anyone tell me what one story has to do with the other ?

    Times change and Cayman has changed with the times, for better or for worse ?

    That depends on who you ask ?

    The entire world has become a less friendly, accomodating place and the Cayman Islands, on a whole, is still one of the most peaceful, accomodating, friendly places on this planet.

    Whoever doesn’t like the fact that their special status and privileges doesn’t exist anymore in modern Cayman know what they can do.

    Flights leave every single day.

  3. L.Bell, his sentiment actually does reflect most people’s feeling towards outsides. I’d think you”d be used to it by now.

    The one thing agree with, is that he is right no one has to be in Cayman, flights do leave everyday and we can easily be asked to get on one at anytime..The quicker we as outsider realize that no matter how much you invest or how much you do that we will always be outsiders when in Cayman the better off we are. This we need to take into consideration when making financial decisions on how much we invest locally.

    Take into account Wikipedia’s definition of Driftwood which is what outsiders in Cayman are looked upon as.

    Driftwood is wood that has been washed onto a shore or beach of a sea, lake, or river by the action of winds, tides or waves. It is a form of marine debris or tidewrack. Both of which basically mean trash or litter.

    Don’t expect to be treated as a equal or have your opinion matter.

  4. L. Bell

    My comments were made as a response to the linked article in the Daily Telegraph, supposedly revealing the fact that foreigners aren’t welcome in the Cayman Islands any longer.

    If you had read it, you would probably understand my comments a little more.

    In any case, as per that article…the colonial status quo that ruled the Cayman Islands even up until 1982, the year Colin Wilson came to Cayman as a quantity surveyor, no longer exists, although the official status remains.

    The world and Cayman has moved on from privileged-status societies.

    In which other country could Colin Wilson have come to work as a quantity surveyor and end up as a TV station owner ?

    And what type of country and society were those early expatriates fleeing, that brought them to Cayman in the first place ?

    And why were they made to flee them ?

    Might it have been that their values and expectations were no longer acceptable in their own countries of origin ?

    I highly suspect so.

    And he has a problem that the bars, clubs and social meeting spots in Cayman are no longer exclusive to his supposedly elite clique ?

    The fact that they are not is proof of the friendliness and acceptance of the Caymanian society to ALL levels of the society and that Cayman has moved on.

    And as I’ve said already, for those who don’t like it…

    There’s a flight out that they can catch to wherever they will find what they are looking for.

    If it is exclusiveness and exclusion based on old-style British colonial values, I wish them luck because they won’t find that anywhere in the world in which we live now, I’m afraid.

    And, thankfully so.