Three Auxiliaries who wished to remain anonymous yesterday complained to Newsday of feeling underused, underpaid and under- equipped. They said successive governments have not given effect to the outdated legislation governing the Auxiliaries, by not establishing the required regulations, far less providing a timely update of the Auxiliary Fire Service Act 1979. The officers said the Fire Auxiliaries are the neglected arm of the country’s protective services reserves, compared to better treatment received by the TT Police Service Special Reserve Police (SRP) and the Volunteer Defence Force.

One member said Auxiliaries are not often called out to duty, although a notable exemption was to parade at the recent funeral for former prime minister, Patrick Manning.

Further, he said the Auxiliaries are supplied with inadequate personal protective equipment, this often being limited to just “a shirt, a pants and a pair of boots”.

“Yet we are supposed to operate as a full-time fire-fighter, with the same powers and duties,” he added.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

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“But that is not happening. They have even stopped us riding on the fire tenders.” To add insult to injury, he complained, promotions within the Auxiliary Service are going to officers who had retired from the regular Fire Service with full benefits, thereby jumping over officers who had served long as Auxiliaries and under tough conditions.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

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He said last year’s National Budget had allocated $45 million for the Auxiliary Unit but they were never told how to access it.

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Even as Auxiliary officers desperately await payment of their entitlements, they fear that this sum will be returned to the Treasury if deemed “unspent” by the end of this fiscal year.

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The officer said that if regulations were brought under the Auxiliary Act, the Auxiliaries would have their own budget and own training, and so be self-sufficient.

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Draft Regulations have been placed before the Ministry of National Security since 2008 but nobody has seen fit to submit them to Parliament for approval.

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The officer said it is now up to the Chief Fire Officer to notify the Minister of National Security of the need to implement Regulations for the Auxiliaries.

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The Auxiliary Fire Service 1979 in section 15 says the Minister may make Regulations to govern the Auxiliaries by setting out its organisation, ranks, training, conditions of service, remuneration, benefits, pensions, widows gratuity, transport, discipline, and clothing/ equipment.

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At present both posts of the CFO and the head of the Auxiliary Fire Service are occupied by persons in acting positions, adding to the uncertainties over the Auxiliary Fire Service.

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Newsday was unable to contact Minister of National Security, Edmund Dillon, nor his parliamentary secretary, Glenda Jennings- Smith, for a response.

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© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

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