Firefighters back in West Bay station

Government officials join firefighters at the reopening ceremony at the West Bay Fire Station on Wednesday morning. - PHOTOS: JEWEL LEVY

Firefighters are back at the West Bay Fire Station after it was closed in late July because of mold in the air conditioning systems.

Mold has been found in all three of Grand Cayman’s fire stations. A survey of fire stations was carried out by the Department of Environmental Health and the findings of that report are being used to determine what work needs to be done at the individual stations, Fire Chief David Hails said Wednesday at a reopening ceremony at the station.

Mr. Hails said they had only “scratched the surface” and there were a list of things that still need to be addressed in the stations.

Fire vehicles outside the West Bay Fire Station on Wednesday.
Fire vehicles outside the West Bay Fire Station on Wednesday.

Repairs at the West Bay fire station cost $35,000, including new air conditioners, which had not been replaced since Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and new furniture.

“It’s now 200 percent better,” said Brian Watler, acting station officer. “Some Saturdays ago, I brought my daughter to the station before the work was carried out and then I brought her back after the work was finished and she said, ‘Dad, now your firehouse feels like a home.’ Imagine, she is only six years old and she could feel the difference.”

Mr. Watler said firefighters had been complaining about the state of the station to government for some time.

Action was taken after West Bay MLA Bernie Bush brought the issue of mold in Grand Cayman’s fire stations to the attention of government earlier this year in a question in the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee. Mr. Bush, who attended Wednesday’s reopening ceremony, along with government officials and firefighters, said he heard about the mold from his wife and visited the station to see the problem for himself.

“It’s too long the men have been treated this way, and we hope the central station in town, which is also in a mess, will be looked at,” Mr. Bush said Wednesday.

More work needs to be done on the fire station in West Bay, the firefighters said, including repairs on the front doors, which cannot open.

Fire Chief David Hails chats with Premier Alden McLaughlin and Education Minister Tara Rivers. - PHOTO: JEWEL LEVY
Fire Chief David Hails chats with Premier Alden McLaughlin and Education Minister Tara Rivers. – PHOTO: JEWEL LEVY

Firefighters said they were told the air conditioning would be replaced in all five of the stations – three on Grand Cayman, one on Cayman Brac and one on Little Cayman.

Fire Chief Hails said a survey by Antoinette Johnson from the Department of Environmental Health had found nothing “significant.”

However, based on the findings in the report, he said, the air conditioning units at West Bay were replaced. A new kitchen was installed, and cosmetic changes were made to rest rooms at the Cayman Brac Fire Station.

Mr. Hails also said the fire service bought new hydraulic rescue equipment, placed nine automatic external defibrillators on the streets for the public, placed spotlights on the front and back of fire vehicles to assist the safety of fire officers, bought thermal imaging cameras and a new rescue launch boat, and is in the process of recruiting new fire officers.

“We are going to bring in 15 new fire officers, which will bring the complement up to 145 firefighters. When we achieve that objective, we will then reassess what our requirements are and take it from there,” Mr. Hails said.

Speaking at the ceremony, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said the civil service had a responsibility to look after the brave men of the fire service and “when they complain, we have to listen.”

Addressing the firefighters at the station Wednesday, Premier Alden McLaughlin said, “It is fitting … that we ensure that you, who keep us safe, have a safe environment in which to work. And this is what we have done with the improvements made here – and we are also working to ensure that this is the case for all of our stations.”

Note: This story has been amended from the original to reflect the correct amount the renovation work on the West Bay fire station cost.