By Angel Nuñez
Of course I could not miss the opportunity to put on my overall, rubber boots and helmet to be a part of the first ever fire service for San Pedro. This must have been around 1975; I was recently married and looking for new activities besides serenading with my teenage friends and playing the guitar.
Let me first talk about our group of 100% volunteers. Norman Eiley was our appointed Fire Chief, and he was joined by Jose Gonzalez, Miguel Alamilla, Genaro Nuñez, Francisco Verde, Dimas Guerrero and Yours Truly. We were simply invited; don’t think there was any physical test. But indeed they all had to be strong as you will find out later on. We were all family men and left time from our home schedule to go to fire drills every Monday evening at 4 p.m. This was a duty which we took seriously and were very responsible and consistent. We drilled with one or two or even three live hoses by branching off with a splitter. We drilled at every possible spot at the lagoon or seaside where we placed our five-inch suction hose. At times we set patches of garbage on fire and drilled on it. Once Captain Eiley had us build a palm leaf house and he lit it early one night about 7 p.m. to try out our whistle communication system and our siren as well.
This is why I said that the men had to be strong. Our portable pump was an extremely heavy piece of equipment. It must have weighed about 500 pounds and we had to get it out of Miguel Alamilla’s downstairs house and place it, with much groaning, on a land rover vehicle. Then we had to haul it with man power to the waterside, set it leveled and cranked it. The rolling out of the hose was easy and fun, but holding it steady and aimed at one spot was a bit hectic. We were taught to let go of the hose and be able to stabilize it from dangling dangerously from right to left. After a hour or so of drilling, we had to get the water out of the hoses while rolling them and then returned all the equipment to its storeroom. Finally we had to oil the equipment after the drill and leave it ready for the next drill or real action.
The fire service tested its capabilities on a few real incidents. One house was totally burned down even though we got there promptly but the house was already 75 percent on fire. I say we were efficient.
After our first group, another group followed under Captain Eddie Halliday. They responded to one major fire very professionally and efficiently but the portable pump would not prime and failed to fill the hoses. Three houses were totally destroyed including Fina’s Store and Coral Cable Television Station. The worst part was that one person was burned to death in this fire which was put out by the grace of God and a lot of willpower and man power and the bucket brigade. This was when San Pedro found out of the need and started lobbying for a good fire truck.
San Pedro has indeed made great strides in its fire service. Hats off to its pioneers who led the way and thank you to our present staff and volunteers. Twenty Five Years Ago salutes you all.
25 Years Ago Books Can Be Purchased At:
-Ambergris Today -Lala’s Store -Pampered Paws -San Pedro BTB Office -Aquarius Salon (Kim) -S.P. Town Library -Di Bush –Richie’s Stationery -San Pedrano’s Stationery -Rum, Coffee & Cigar House
Contact the Author at: [email protected]