May 4 is observed annually as International Firefighters Day. It is a time where communities across the globe recognize and honor the sacrifices that firefighters make to ensure that their communities and environment are as safe as possible. It is also a day in which current and past firefighters are recognized for their contributions. Recent weeks have seen firefighters across the country working double time due to wildfire. Today we spoke with some of the firefighters in the Belize District to get a response on what they have to say on their special day. According to one firefighter, the hours have been tough especially since sometimes they cannot see their families, but it is a sacrifice he is willing to make.
Kenneth Mortis, Station Supervisor: “The work continues. In order to facilitate the firemen and the state of emergency that we’re under due to the COVID-19 we’ve had to look at the shift schedule that we used to have them working we are now having them work a twenty four hour shift system which for the most part is more time home and less from work. My guys are quite comfortable with the shift system. The most tedious task in this time is the same bush fire that we’re talking about. We don’t always have these bush fires in our backyards so to speak which is close. Just last week we had a team battling a blaze out in Benque in the Arenal area prior to that we had a team in the Punta Gorda area battling their blaze, Belize has had it’s fair share no doubt. We’ve had to cover where the most calls come in would be the 8 Miles community, the Hattieville Community, Lords Bank, Ladyville and Belama areas these are the areas that have become repetitive in terms of response to fires. As a unit we know that we’re firemen and we will have working days and we will have not so much of a working day but whenever that bell rings believe me my guys are ready to respond and do what we’re trained to do.”
Austin Williams, Firefighter: “There’s a lot going on but it’s nice to serve and protect this country and we’re doing this for the people of Belize. Always protect yourself and be safe and let’s serve and protect.”
The day was instituted after a proposal was emailed out across the world on January 4, 1999, due to the deaths of five firefighters in a bushfire in Australia. The men were part of a strike team and were being sent to help extinguish the flames. As the five headed into the hot zone, the wind suddenly switched direction, engulfing the truck in flames and killing all five members.