The Fire Brigade, as it was known up to late 1978, was established in Roseau under the Roseau Town Board. The Brigade was located on the ground floor of the Old Post Office which is now known as the Roseau Museum.
In those days there were no engine-driven fire trucks or portable pumps but a fire cart which was marked ‘Birmingham’ on both sides with wooden wheels and a box placed inside with ancillary pieces of equipment.
The miscellaneous pieces of equipment were as follows:
- One fire axe
- One crow bar
- One coil of rope, 20 feet long
- A few hatchets
- Branch pipes
- Two coils of hose 150 feet long
- Hydrant keys.
The pieces of equipment made the cart quite heavy and so the firemen had to be mentally and physically fit. These officers proudly served and wore their khaki shirts and shorts with their leather boots, khaki helmets and belts with pride. The Fire Brigade consisted of paid personnel and volunteers who greatly assisted in time of need. The Fire Brigade responded to numerous fire calls in the city of Roseau and environs. One such fire was a factory fire at Castle Comfort. The call was given by a running caller. The Fire Brigade was assisted by Mr. Eddie Trotter, a member of the town board and a volunteer fireman. He tied the cart to the back of his car and transported the men to castle comfort.
On November 14th, 1945 the Brigade fought one the biggest fires in the history of Dominica. This fire started in the Bellot’s yard on Jewell Street where a factory was situated. That fire completely destroyed two blocks and made more than nine families homeless. Persons present claimed that factory workers tried to extinguish the fire by use of beaters however it got out of control and ignited the rest of the buildings in close proximity.
The brigade at that time utilized fire hydrants situated at the front and rear of the Methodist Church and one close to Bridgewater’s store. While fighting fire Mr. Joseph Reid, one of the senior officers at the time, had his helmet on fire and did not know of it until it was knocked of his head by a police man.
Seven months later, the Brigade encountered another fire at Cherry Lodge Hotel on Kennedy Avenue. The hotel along with Mr. Crawford’s home was destroyed. Shortly after, the Brigade bought a one ton truck from Mr. Cecil Winston and converted into a fire truck. A carpenter by the name of Mr. Nestor constructed a cabinet and a wooden reel to house the hose.
The duties of the firemen in those days were numerous. The strength of the Brigade moved from eight to twelve men. They were responsible for serving summons, going along with health inspectors to inspect farms used for milk and cattle production and to perform the duties of rural constables.
Towards the end of the 1940’s a reconditioned fire appliance which was used in Eastern Africa was purchased and used for a number of years before being replaced.
In 1952, the Central Government took over the Brigade from the Town Board and moved both personnel and equipment to a cold storage building on the Bay Front, now the DEXIA building. The Brigade was now placed under the command of the Chief of Police. In 1953, high tidal waves from Hurricane Janet threatened the Brigade forcing it to be relocated to its present location on Bath Road; this time under the command of W. V. Pendeleith. By this time, the strength of the Brigade had grown to thirteen men. They were Frank, Delsol, Challenger, Philbert, Brown, Richards, Bossien, Christian, Joseph, Reid and Grant.
November 1958 saw the opening of the Melville Hall Airport. It was necessary to open the Melville Hall Fire Station to facilitate the safe landing and take-off of airplanes. The Melville Hall Fire Station was dual purposed; designed to serve the airport and domestic firers in surrounding communities.
In 1967 Mr. Pendeleith was made the first local professional fire chief and the department was severed from the Police Force. Consequently additional man power was recruited so as to strengthen the out stations of Melville Hall and Portsmouth.
On 1st January, 1973, Mr. Clement Burton was promoted to Chief Fire Officer shortly after returning from a course which he attended at the Fire Service Training College. He then replaced Mr. Pendeleith whose contract had ended. The ensuing years were challenging for the Division and its newly appointed Chief Fire Officer.
In 1978, prior to the attainment of Independence, the ambulance service, which was being maintained by the Princess Margaret Hospital, was merged with the Fire Service, hence the name change to the Fire and Ambulance Services. Ambulance was then placed in seven health districts: Roseau, Portsmouth, Castle Bruce, LA Plaine, Grand Bay, Marigot and Canefield.
Mr. Burton retired from the public service in August of 1996. He has been succeeded by Mr. Julien Jno Baptiste as chief fire officer. Mr Angelo Matthew now served as Deputy Chief Fire Officer filling the position made vacant upon retirement of Mr. P. N Bertrand in 1993.
The fire and ambulance services to this date continue to serve the people within the Commonwealth of Dominica with pride and dignity and will continue to motivate and educate the population to ensure that everyone lives in a safe environment.