Albert Gieling, the new interim General Commander of the Caribbean Netherlands Fire Department, is on Saba for a few days. Besides meeting with local authorities, he will also be introduced to the Saba Fire Department.
On Tuesday, July 16, Gieling, accompanied by local Fire Chief Julio Every, met with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson who oversees disaster management, Island Secretary Tim Muller, Public Order and Safety Advisor of the Public Entity Saba Chris Besseling, and Euridice Stuger of the Ministry of Justice and Security.
Gieling, who has been appointed interim Commander per July 1, 2019, said that he was learning about the challenges that the Saba Fire Department and the fire fighters face. Having enough water to extinguish fires is always a challenge, as is getting to certain areas, explained Fire Chief Every.
Manpower is a challenge as well since it is hard to acquire local fire fighters for whom the Dutch language is often difficult. “I had a teacher giving Dutch classes to the last group of three men,” said Every, who explained that the firemen need to know some Dutch technical language to use in their work.
“We also have to look at the fire stations. There are plans to build a new fire station at the airport and we need to upgrade the fire station in The Bottom,” said Gieling. He explained that, for example, restroom and shower facilities for women needed to be constructed at the fire station. “The idea is that we not only have male fire fighters, but also female.” He said that for health reasons, it is very important that fire fighters can shower right after a fire due to the smoke and fire residue.
Gieling said that as General Commander he would also work on a further strengthening of the collaboration between the Fire Departments in the Caribbean Netherlands and the Fire Departments in St. Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba. There are agreements in place for cooperation between the islands in case of disasters, including large fires and hurricanes.
Asked about his first time visit to Saba, Gieling said that he was impressed by Saba. “It is a very special island with gorgeous nature. It struck me how small it is and I wondered what it is like to live on an island where you always run into each other.”
Gieling succeeded former Commander Jair Tromp who left the Caribbean Netherlands Fire Department a few months ago. Gieling has been appointed for 13 months. The intention is to appoint a successor of Dutch Caribbean descent.