Veteran UK firefighter named Cayman chief

A veteran UK firefighter has been hired to lead the Cayman Islands Fire Service on a one-year contract.

Paul Walker, currently head of the Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, will take up the post later this year.

Officials say the interim appointment will allow senior Caymanian firefighters within the service time to get the training and experience they need to be eligible for the top job.

Traditionally, the fire service has been led by a Caymanian. Briton David Hails, who left the island in February at the end of a three-year contract, was the first foreign national to take the job in the history of the organisation.

Dax Basdeo, chief officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs, said work had been taking place on “succession planning” to ensure local officers are better prepared to advance into leadership positions.

“A one-year interim appointment is necessary to allow the three recently promoted Deputy Chief Fire Officers adequate time to pursue further professional development and qualifications that will enable them to meet the requirements of the role of Chief Fire Officer,” he said in an official statement.

“Without an interim chief, it is difficult for the deputies to manage their current job responsibilities, cover the responsibilities of a Chief Fire Officer, and pursue their own professional development.”

Walker, a senior manager with 30 years of fire and rescue experience, said he was delaying his retirement to take on the job.

“I am very pleased and yet a little sad to inform colleagues that I am moving onto a new challenge,” he said in a press release issued through Cornwall Council in the UK.

“It was always my intention to retire at the end of 2019 and securing this wonderful opportunity to share my 30 years’ fire and rescue service experience with international, domestic and airport fire and rescue service colleagues and to support their world-class fire and rescue service ambitions in the Cayman Islands, provides a challenging, rewarding and enjoyable one-year transition to my full retirement.”

The Cayman Islands Fire Service has also gone through a review of its organisational chart and job descriptions.

Brevon Elliott, who will continue as acting fire chief until Walker’s arrival, said in a statement, “We are dedicated to developing and promoting the highest quality of fire officers, and we will continue to invest in ongoing professional development opportunities that will take our first responder capabilities to the next level.”