On Dec. 10, a press conference was held at the Marsh Harbour Volunteer Fire Rescue (MHVFR) Brigade to introduce Sarone Kennedy as the newly elected fire chief. His appointment as fire chief took place on Dec. 6.
Kennedy thanked all in attendance as well as the members of the fire brigade who had elected him in what he called a “monumental and historical event in the life and history of the MHVFR Brigade,” which was established in 1964.
He went on to state his intentions as fire chief – a position in which he expressed honour and humility.
As he began his speech, Kennedy reminded members that although they are volunteers, they are to always be professional in what they do and not allow anything to hinder their effectiveness in providing excellent service to the communities of Abaco.
He emphasized that training and proficiency are also areas they would focus on developing.
“We must do what we do in the best possible way and in the most efficient way so as to use resources (time, money, people, material and information) in the best way for the brigade and the communities around us,” Kennedy explained.
Admittedly, he acknowledged that the members were at an important crossroad in the development of the brigade. Notwithstanding challenges faced by the brigade, Kennedy assured those present that the brigade is alive and well and is working continuously to alleviate and eliminate the problems that occurred in the past.
“Under my leadership, we will take a strong stance against those who would seek to bring harm or disrespect to this brigade. We will operate with the discipline of professionals and not hesitate to assist members with self-discipline, when needed,” he expressed.
Over the years, firefighters have encountered challenges with access to buildings, unsanitary conditions, buildings that do not meet building code standards, and wildland interface challenges where they have discovered houses on fire in the middle of the forest. He was grateful, however, that the firefighters don’t have the challenge of dealing with too many high-rise buildings.
Kennedy said that while the water supply has been pretty consistent, firefighters do encounter issues from time to time the farther away they travel from the Marsh Harbour area.
As fire chief, Kennedy is looking forward to standardizing the fire brigade’s procedures, so that they are in harmony with the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s (RPBF) Fire branch in addition to other brigades in Abaco and throughout the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
He added that several initiatives have already been launched to involve and engage a wider section of the community, to train and equip more people, and to re-engage former members.
While he did not give the specific number of volunteers involved with the brigade, Kennedy said that there are sufficient members to operate all four fire trucks should the need arise. When dealing with volunteers, he said they are accustomed to a fluctuation of personnel, but they have a good team of people to work with.
“We look forward to keeping the members that we have, [and] we look forward to adding new members, so this administration will be forward thinking and forward looking, and we will go forward.”
The brigade is open to volunteers 16 years old and over. Kennedy would like to revive the cadet and junior fire program to encourage more young people to become firefighters. With a good relationship between the brigade and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), he said that they can create a feeder program that can give young firefighters the option of continuing a career with the RBDF.
Nearing the end of his remarks, Kennedy advised the public that if there is a fire to please call the MHVFR Brigade directly at the Fire and Rescue Emergency phone number, which is 367-2000.
By dialing 367-2000, firefighters are able to receive information more quickly.
“This number is in service 24 hours a day. When calling, the dispatcher will ask several questions. We need to know the location, and what the call is about because we not only fight fires, but we also do rescues,” Kennedy said. “Please bear in mind that there is no fire truck next door to you, so it is going to take some time. Please call us directly and help us help you.
“Lastly, we want to engage a vigorous community fire safety education program, and will coordinate with the Officer in Charge of the Abaco District of the RBPF, Mr. Hilton Cash, to come to your community and encourage you to be safe while using fire.”