St. Maarten now has an elite group of firefighters with Bonaire as the only other place in the Dutch Kingdom where similar firefighters can be found. The intense course, developed by Dutch Fire Academy, also has another distinction; it was conducted entirely on island with local trainers at a nominal cost the Fire Department.
The training and education course, referred to as “Manschap B”, trains firefighters to lead small companies of firefighters in the field. It was developed to bridge a gap that exists between the role of a regular firefighter and those on the scene of a small fire/incident.
The eight-week Manschap B has to be administered as standardized course in fire departments throughout the kingdom. Bonaire and St. Maarten have taken the lead to ensure their firehouses have the required small group leaders fully trained and ready for the field.
What also makes the course groundbreaking for St. Maarten is the complicated level of Dutch used to administer the course. “The entire course – the practical and online classes – were all in Dutch and that level of Dutch was very difficult,” said Nico van Zand, Fire Department Section Head for Fire Suppression, told The Daily Herald.
The local company comprising Elvin Lake, Michael Hodge, Melford Williams, Maricella Gomez, Christopher Schoop, Esmond Hodge, Sheena Rey, Karl de Palm, Giangillo Sprott, Jamal Hodge, and Jhonaton Thewet, all mastered the course in spite of the difficult level of Dutch, a fact they, as well as course supervisor Van Zand, are extremely proud of.
Some of the firefighters in the course were of a higher rank for which the course is deemed a necessity. The Fire Department opted to include other ranks in whom they identified the leadership capacities and talent in the course.
St. Maarten’s course facilitator were Firefighter Glenn Macnack and … Van Zand and … from the Netherlands supervised the course.
“The beauty of it we don’t need people from the Netherlands to help us with this course when we do it again. We won’t need the support for anyone from the outside,” said Van Zand. This is because the Fire Department has its own trainers in-house.
Conducting the training in-house also meant a substantial cost savings for the Fire Department and, by extension, taxpayers. A course of this magnitude would cost some US $50,000. Administering Manschap B at home with local trainers only took some US $6,000 for the Fire Department’s already tight budget.