Oct. 4, 2004 – Members of the V.I. Fire Services joined with friends and family in a fun and information day on Sunday to launch Fire Prevention week. National Guardsmen and St. Croix Rescue joined in. On the white sandy beach of Divi Carina Bay Hotel and Resort, emergency personnel, male and female, showed their prowess by teaming up, grabbing a rope and trying to pull another team down.
On St. John and St. Thomas the week will be marked with open houses at the fire stations and a family day Saturday at Magens Bay.
On St. Croix children were given honorary "firemen for a day" status, receiving plastic fire chief hats, fire safety coloring books, crayons, rulers, pencils and pens. Even Smokey the Bear made an appearance on the Divi beach , to caution all "Don't play with matches!" Later in the day rescue personnel used mannequins to demonstrate CPR techniques. The Ebenezer Steel orchestra provided the background music.
The three agencies, along with the police department, often collaborate in disaster and emergency situations such as bomb threats, oil spills, fires, traffic accidents and natural disasters.
"These activities bring us together," said Rescue Chief Gregory Richards. "When a disaster strikes and we respond we will already have camaraderie." Richards explained that the rescue squad provides medical and HAZMT support to any incident that requires multi-agency response.
Ovaldo Graham, St. Croix fire chief, was enjoying the sportsmanship of the day. He joined in on a strenuous game of tug-of-war and helped defeat the rescue team. "We are here defending our trophy," said the chief. "Last year, we took home the trophy."
Graham said the fire department is prepared for "almost anything" regarding fire prevention and control. The department presently has two pumpers to carry fire hoses, three water tankers and a 6,000-gallon trailer. The latest additions to the fleet are two bush fire units.
The wild lands fire engines or "bush fire" units were acquired by a grant through the International Institute of Tropical Forestry. Terry Hueth, director for state and private forestry for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, said the agency provides money, training, and equipment and develops water projects such as finding alternate water sources through the creation of wells.
Hueth said fire departments on St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John assessed their particular fire fighting needs. Based on the topography of each island it was determined that St. Croix would get two bush fire trucks and St. Thomas St/ John would get helicopter and technical assistance, he said.
The lightweight bush fire truck has a 4,000-gallon capacity, up to 1,000 feet of hose and 4-wheel drive to maneuver in off road situations. In St. Thomas/St. John the steep slopes requires the use of helicopters in fighting fires. The grant provides the funds to rent the equipment on an as-needed basis and provides technical training to fire fighters.
The chief said he still has two things on his wish list – a ladder truck and a foam truck. "We need the ladder truck in case we have to perform rescues from three-story buildings," he said. "The foam truck is used to extinguish gas or grease fires."
Fire prevention week can be traced back to the great Chicago fire of Oct. 9, 1871. The massive fire that engulfed the city, killed 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2000 acres in 27 hours. On the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America, the oldest membership section of the National Fire Protection Association, sponsored the first National Fire Prevention Day, deciding to observe the anniversary as a way to keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention. This was expanded to Fire Prevention Week in 1922.
Fire Prevention Week will be celebrated on St. Croix with the following activities.
Monday. – – Open house at all fire stations.
Tuesday. – – School visits.
Wednesday – – School visits, 4 p.m. Queen Louise Home visit.
Thursday. – – Open house at all fire stations.
Friday. – – Open house at all fire stations.
Saturday. – – Motorcade Christiansted to Frederiksted.
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