Lt/Col David Burch Defends Chief Fire Officer

February 25, 2013

Former National Security Minister and Bermuda Regiment Commanding Officer Lt/Col David Burch has defended Chief Fire Officer Vincent Hollinsid, after criticisms were levied at him by President of the Fire Service Association Allan Wilkinson.

Mr Hollinsid, who has served for 43 years, will retire from the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service in April 2013. His successor has not yet been named.

Friday’s newspaper reported that, “Chronic staff shortages, a dictatorial leadership, and the promotion of inexperienced personnel to key positions are putting the lives of Bermuda’s firefighters at risk, according to the Fire Service Association.”

Lt/Col Burch said, “I worked with Chief Hollinsid when I commanded the Bermuda Regiment in the early 1990’s while he was Deputy Chief Fire Officer and subsequently as Minister – throughout those periods I found Chief Hollinsid to be a fearless leader of the service and he always placed the welfare of his staff at the forefront. I often marveled and commented on the “outside the box thinking” of members of the BFRS.”

On the topic of funding, Lt/Col Burch said, “This is a matter that rests solely with the Minister of the day who must secure adequate funding. For the years that I was Minister – I accept full responsibility (and blame if you will) that in the economic climate that prevailed I was unable to secure not only the full funding requests by the Chief Fire Officer but for several other ministry Departments as for some of those years there were mandated budget cuts.”

Lt/Col Burch’s full statement follows below:

I served as the Minister responsible for the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service (BFRS) from December 2007 to April 2, 2011 first as the Minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Housing and subsequently as the Minister of National Security – as such I feel duty bound to comment on some of the assertions attributed to the President of the Fire Service Association, Mr. Allan Wilkinson in Friday’s daily – as they fall well outside the remit of the Chief Fire Officer.

I worked with Chief Hollinsid when I commanded the Bermuda Regiment in the early 1990’s while he was Deputy Chief Fire Officer and subsequently as Minister – throughout those periods I found Chief Hollinsid to be a fearless leader of the service and he always placed the welfare of his staff at the forefront. I often marveled and commented on the “outside the box thinking” of members of the BFRS.

I reviewed two reports that I wrote about the Service in February 2009 and August 2010 and highlight just a few of the successes here.

February 2009

  • The introduction of the Fire Safety Act 2009 gave the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service the authority to enter any building to ensure that fire safety code standards are being maintained. The new legislation also required the trucking industry to display a hazardous cargo plaque card when transporting flammable or hazardous substances. This card system warns firefighters responding to emergencies involving these types of vehicles and allows for appropriate safety precautions to be exercised.
  • The combining of the Clearwater Fire Station with the Airport Operations Division officially occurred on September 27th, 2008. This created a first-class working environment for the new Clearwater Station that now houses the structural and aircraft rescue firefighting divisions of the Service.
  • The renovation of the Eastern Volunteer Division station to accommodate an additional unit that is housed there. This additional water tender supplements, but is not limited to, fire coverage in this particular part of the island.
  • February 2008 saw the first recruit course specifically designed for increasing the staffing levels at the Airport Operations Division with seven new recruits. All seven successfully completed the course in addition to successfully completing a basic Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting course held at Pearson International Airport in Canada. They are the first fire fighters to be trained in both structural and aircraft rescue and firefighting.
  • Reconstruction of a new hydrant system within the City of Hamilton is not economically viable at a cost of approximately $25m – a mobile water supply system, known as the HydroSub 150 from the Netherlands was sourced at a cost of $800,000. This mobile hydraulic-driven submersible floating pump provides coverage for the City’ high-rise buildings. As well as being extremely helpful in addressing the most recent Pembroke Dump fire.
  • In an effort to reduce costs, the Service decided that refurbishing vehicles that were received in 1999 and 2000, rather than replacing them could better utilize funds.
  • One of the objectives of the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service is to prepare personnel for effective succession planning within. To ensure that personnel are equipped with the necessary tools for professional and personal development the Service supports additional training. There were six officers pursuing Bachelor’s degrees in Fire Science and other disciplines.

August 2010

  • Establishment of the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) through the amalgamation of the Bermuda Fire Service, The St. George Volunteer Brigade and the Airport Fire Department into one unified service.
  • Early in 2010 the U.K Fire inspectorate completed a strategic review of the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service following the amalgamation of the three (3) Services. There were a total of thirty-six (36) recommendations contained in the inspectorate’s report – all of which were accepted and are being implemented.
  • An overseas consultant on behalf of the Department of Civil Aviation conducted an audit of the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service Airport Operations Division. The audit is a requirement of the ICAO standard as well as the related overseas territories aviation regulations. The audit conducted an analysis of the policies, standards, procedures and facilities of the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service, when providing airport fire and rescue coverage at the L. F. Wade International Airport.
  • As part of succession planning in the service – the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service had two of its senior officers at the Fire Service College U.K completing the final phase of the senior command training course. The course at the Fire Service College was followed by each officer being seconded to two (2) separate fire service’s in the U.K in order to get hands on training working at the senior command level.
  • The Fire Service successfully concluded negotiation with the Fire Service Association for a new four (4) year contract. A significant inclusion in the new contract was the review and change of fire officers’ sick leave policy.

It was in 2010 when I indicated that we might have to recruit fire fighters from overseas for the very first time in our history as a result of the inability of sufficient recruits passing the entry requirements. Happily as a result of the efforts of Chief Hollinsid and his team – overseas recruitment has not been necessary to date.

These are just a few of the accomplishments during my tenure that demonstrate a commitment to the service.

With regard to funding – this is a matter that rests solely with the Minister of the day who must secure adequate funding. For the years that I was Minister – I accept full responsibility (and blame if you will) that in the economic climate that prevailed I was unable to secure not only the full funding requests by the Chief Fire Officer but for several other ministry Departments as for some of those years there were mandated budget cuts.

Mr. Hollinsid has served this country for an astounding 43 years in public service and I am certain he would be the first to admit that he wasn’t perfect (who is?) but I happily stand at the front of the line in thanking him for his outstanding service, I wish him a happy and health filled retirement – as well as wishing the best of success to the next chief and all members of the Service.

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Comments (23)

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  1. Victor says:

    Being defended by Col Burch strikes me as perhaps not the most welcome compliment one could wish for…

    • Black Soil says:

      Damn…getting defended by Col. Burch just throws you from the frying pan and into the fire.

  2. Nuffin but de Truth! says:

    did you hit him with your handbag upside his head to get his co operation

  3. Sandgrownan says:

    Being defended by Burch is like…..winning the 100m at Fat Camp…?

  4. Bobmarlin says:

    Bullsh……………….!

  5. I agree he is not the one who should be defending anyone…why do u think he is unemployed

    • The Dark Knight 2 says:

      Who said Mr. Burch is unemployed?

    • Think First says:

      @Rock Watcher, Col. Burch CHOSE to the employment status in which he holds whether it be unemployment or otherwise. Not only that but Col. Burch defending the CFO does not discredit what is being said, he may not be like or win any popularity contests but he holds no punches and admits when he is wrong, more politicians should take note and strive to be “MORE TRANSPARENT!!!!!

  6. Rockfish#2 says:

    Burch is simply defending his comrades brother. Run, Hollinsid run!

  7. I'm just sayin... says:

    Venom aside, now children. He does say quite a lot, what say you to the content?

    • Sandgrownan says:

      Didn’t read it. His views are irrelevent.

      • Hey says:

        What I got from it…

        Takes blame for overspending…budgets were cut , but secured funding anyway…..

        How do those internal controls work again.

        Managers need to start managing to spend within their budgeted means, or we will never ever be out of this mess. If they can’t do that, then sack em !

  8. What Do You THink says:

    Due to policies and restrictions in place the BFS & BPS personal have their hands tied. Public Service & Safety requirements that are common place in other countries are not common place here. Just take a look around you when you pass by a scene, the first thing “Joe Public” says is they are not doing anything, but they have no idea of the complexity of what Fire,Police and Hospital have to go through to make your relatives safe and secure. As for Burch and Hollinsid, I have only seen them together on parade on front street in my time serving in the Regiment. For the present govt. I believe that the BFS should have received a healthy input of funds in the just released budget in order for these men and women to do a proper job. When you dial 911 for a medical emergency now days the BFS is the first to respond to assist with the golden hour of survival. For the “Joe Public” respect the emergency services you maybe the next 911 call they respond too

  9. #ThatIsAll says:

    Thanks for addressing why there was a staff shortage…. Now back to the allegations of his “dictator” style leadership, favoritism and lack of interest in boosting staff morale

    When faced with difficult situations (such as staff shortages) morale among staff will likely drop. As the Chief and boss it is YOUR responsibility to make sure YOUR staff feel appreciated for working those 12 hour shifts, and covering for shortages. He did not do that… This was not about staff shortages, this is about treating your staff as though they matter and they are important.

    • What Do You THink says:

      ThatIsAll said it right to a “T”, He said what I couldn’t say .. on that 12hr shift note…it is 15hrs for the late shift

  10. campervan says:

    “Unable to secure adequate funding”

    Col, with your “Bermudians only” IB meetings you caused massive collateral damage to Bermuda’s primary industry. People felt unwelcome, dissed, and they left en masse.
    Yep, you can take the blame for adequate funds drying up.

  11. Common Sense says:

    It’s time to stop these endless nasty, vicious personal attacks on individuals. I have loads of criticisms of Colonel Burch but I give him credit for taking the trouble to write and defend Fire Chief Hollinsid. I’m also sure that Mr Hollinsid has had his faults over the years, as does anyone in a position of authority, but he has given 43 years of loyal service to the Bermuda Fire Service and to his country . Anonymous character assassinations are cowardly and totally non-productive.

  12. OMG says:

    It was under Chief Hollinsid’s tenure that the volunteer service was stopped – why? They contributed and assisted in the BFS for many years.

    As a matter of fact many would be at the station before the paid staff. So my question is why was this stopped and why hire more as this could also be an alternate program instead of the Regiment.

  13. Opressed says:

    Lets see, dreb’s ace boy defending dreb’s brother. Perfection!

    The OBA, in an effort to show the wold of business, and investors that we are a law abiding jurisdiction. Will almost certainly have to bring a lot of the former government officials to trial. Well let’s hope they do anyway if we ever stand a chance of getting out of this massive hole we’re in. Once found guilty, they should be sentenced to life doing hard labour. With today’s technology we could almost have a live cam set up so we could watch 20 hours a day those lot breaking up jail nuts.

  14. M.P. MOUNTBATTEN JP says:

    Is there no freakin end to De KERNAL , DREB & FAMILY for sucks sake ! Just go away .

  15. Triangle Drifter says:

    Lets see Lt Col Burch(ret), what was it you said some years ago to near half the population of Bermuda? Oh yes. I remember. “We don’t care what you think”. Well, that portion of the island has grown to be more than half the population & “We don’t care what you think”.

    So, take your various pensions at taxpayer expense, along with your opinions, & crawl back under that rock, along with the others in the F&F club, & quietly stay there. Your short time of shameful fame has passed.