Private water delivery truck driver and former fire fighter Ernest “Cuchie” Klaber witnessed the house-fire in The Bottom on January 7, and is calling on local authorities to evaluate the professionalism and preparedness of the Saba Fire Department. This writes the Daily Herald. While expressing his criticism in harsh and colourful terms, he stressed that him going public should not be considered a personal offence but an alarm call to avoid possible future deaths due to a lack of professionalism within the emergency response service on Saba.
In a press release issued by the Government Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN on January 8, Saba’s Chief of Basic Police Care Charlie Smink was quoted as saying that “there were several sincere gestures to help.” This was in acknowledgement of, among others, Klaber’s offer to help put out the fire while the fire squad was experiencing a number of challenges.
Klaber said he arrived on the scene with his filled water truck and pump after a call from government airport and harbour security guard Willy Lucas, who had requested his assistance. Once there, Klaber said he realised fire fighters were badly mishandling the situation. “All fire department safety rules were broken on the spot,” he said, adding that fire fighters were needlessly putting themselves in jeopardy without standing a chance of helping civilians.
“The fire truck and the team approached the fire site facing the wind. If the fire would’ve spread fast enough with the strong wind they would’ve trapped themselves in it and have the fire truck burn up,” Klaber said. He said the squad should have approached the fire from the entrance to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, while “having the wind in their back.” He said he did not understand why the fire fighters showed up with what he described as a dysfunctional fire truck or why nobody thought of alternatives to put out the fire while waiting for the other truck to arrive from the other side of the island. Even without entering with the fire truck he said they could have used the available water hoses to reach the fire. “The station’s pump could have been quickly connected to the hose,” said Klaber in pointing to the proximity of the fire station.
He decried the apparent lack of professionalism and critical thinking on the job adding that firemen showed up without flashlights or breathing masks and then fell to the ground not seeing where they jumped a fence and getting intoxicated from the smog. “The Fire Department has got to realise this is a job of great responsibility; one that is tasked with saving people not putting them in danger,” Klaber said.
He decried the current situation in which many, according to him, just parade in uniforms enjoying the reputation and perks of comfortable jobs. “In my opinion as a qualified and experienced fireman, the fire could have been dealt with quickly but they chose not to do a thing. An investigation should be held to see what the men actually know.” Klaber laments the decision of the Fire Department chief to let the fire burn out while waiting for the arrival of the second fire truck.