The headquarters of the Dominica Fire & Ambulance Service hosted a brief but special ceremony at 0900 hours sharp on Wednesday April 22, 2020. It was in honour of the valiant first responders under the auspices of Fire Chief Josiah Dupuis. Deputy Chief Letang chaired the proceedings. Everyone was orderly, appropriately masked and maintaining social distancing.
Organized by the Christian family of Dominica, the tribute was held in the memory of Station Officer Wendell Mckenzie Christian, LSM who served nobly from 1954-1981 in Dominica Fire Brigade; as it was called then. Dominica State College Professor, Trudy Christian, presented a commemorative plaque on behalf of the family. Her father, the late Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Wellsworth Morrison Christian, was the first son of Station Officer Christian.
Also in attendance, and providing introductory remarks, was leading fireman, Malcolm Christian, now seconded to the Office of Disaster Management. Retired Station Officer, Oscar Coipel, gave his personal account of the commitment & camaraderie engendered by “Papa Zafa.”
Dr. Samuel Christian offered a historical perspective: “Our father was a soldier in World War II, later a policeman at Fort Young which was then police headquarters, and ended his career in public service as a fireman at this very headquarters. He was dutiful to the Brigade till the end. He is fondly remembered by fire service veterans as one who did his duty, and shared freely of his time, knowledge sharing in fostering mentorship of younger officers.”
“Our Dad told us of the famous fires he fought such as the Hotel Paz blaze and the old Roseau Hospital fire,” continued Dr. Christian. “His most memorable story was when, as Station Officer on duty, he led fire service onto King George V Street on Carnival Monday 1963 to rescue revelers who had been burnt in the tragic carnival fire which killed Eric Shillingford, Eddie Martin and George James.”
That tragedy is vividly chronicled in the pages of ‘Death by Fire‘ by Mr. Gabriel Christian (co-authored by Justice Irving Andre in Canada) who was able to directly provide a well-received long-distance motivational message to the rank & file of the Service.
Dr. Christian touted emergency personnel as the “tip of spear” amongst frontline workers currently battling the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic. He ended by expressing a commitment on behalf of his family and the nonprofit organization he serves, Rebuild Dominica Inc., to render future assistance to the fire service. In accepting the plaque, Chief Dupuis saluted the legacy of Station Officer Christian, welcoming the continued support by fellow Dominicans at home and abroad for the fire service, police and the full spectrum of healthcare workers.
In a display of gratitude for their efforts, a pizza treat prepared by Perky’s Pizza was provided to the Fire & Ambulance Service personnel.
(Photo & Video Credits: Mjr. Francis Richards)