From overalls to firefighting suit

Today, March 9th, is the day of fire brigade history. The Caribbean Netherlands Fire Department (BKCN) also has a rich history. Former Local Commander (Bonaire) Reynold Janga and Local Commander (Saba) Julio Every can tell all about it. ‘We used to not even have firefighting suits. We did everything in overalls with a helmet’, says Reynold.

Part of the police
Reynold continues: ‘Before the 10t-10-10, we used to fall under the police. Who, by the way, had not even undergone fire training. We were only stationed at the airport. There was basically no coverage for the whole island. Safety was not as high a priority as it is now. There was no money for that either.’ ‘We also had limited resources and manpower. Decisions were therefore made under constraints and the focus of the department was not paramount’, Julio adds.

From fire to the heavens
‘After 10-10-10, we suddenly became part of what was then still called the Ministry of Security and Justice. I made a lot of training and policy plans then. Suddenly there was money, so we could do a lot! We went from fire to the skies, so to speak’, Reynold says. Julio continues: ‘Our men are now professionally trained and we can continue to train and educate them. Now, there is also money for proper materials and equipment. All this to make our services for residents even better and work towards a safe society’.

Incidents throughout the years
‘A fire that I will never forget is the fire at Bopec in 2010. It kept burning for 3 days. An immersion pump even gave out from the heat. In the end, we had to let the oil tanks burn out’, Reynold surmises. Julio continues: ‘There are several incidents that will stay with me. But the loss of a colleague a few years ago made the biggest impact. But despite the emotional toll it took on me and the colleagues, we remained professional. We had a job to do and we did it’.

Strong together, safe together
Reynold: ‘It is important to keep firefighting staff up to date and to provide more training for the future. All kinds of social developments require further training and different equipment. For instance, there are more and more high-rise buildings. Then we will need aerial work platforms. Or what about all those electric vehicles. That requires different expertise from the fire brigade for any firefighting.’ ‘What I think is important is that BKCN works uniformly on all 3 islands. That we keep the cooperation high, ensuring a safe and resilient future for all’, Julio concludes.



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