Another first for St James woman firefighter


Another first for St James woman firefighter

Sunday Observer writer

Sunday, October 18, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Divisional commander for St James Fire Department, acting Superintendent Winsome Grant boasts a few important firsts for women in her field of work.

She is the first woman firefighter to be the divisional commander for St Elizabeth and in her current position, the first woman divisional commander for St James.

No stranger to being a pioneer in her field, she was among the first three women who were successful in getting an emergency medical service (EMS) position when the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) launched the service in 1996.

After acing the interview for the post, she was advised that she had to be trained as a firefighter before she could become an emergency medical technician (EMT). According to her, the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) was building a specialised team.

“In 1995 I saw an advertisement in the paper for an EMT and I applied. However, when I was interviewed I was advised that I would be required to become a firefighter before becoming an emergency medical technician and would be a part of a team specifically recruited for emergency medical services,” Grant said, as she recalled how her now-illustrious career in the JFB began.

Born and raised in Mt Carmel, Hanover, Grant told the Jamaica Observer she always had a passion for community service which was encouraged by her grandmother, Kathleen Crooks-Cummings, who raised her.

“From I was four years old I remember my grandmother going to community meetings, and maybe that's where I got the nudge to give back and participate in community efforts. I also volunteer a lot; I am a volunteer for the 4-H movement. I have gone to Denbigh to train and judge, especially the Boy of the Year and the Girl of the Year competition. I also serve on the Electrical and National Technical Building Code Review Committee of the Bureau of Standards,” Grant shared.

She said she is not daunted by the fact that she is a female in a male-dominated profession.

“Men were always my leaders and I was always willing to learn and grow. In 2009 I went to act in Lucea as the officer in charge of fire prevention and when I returned to St James, I did plumbing and was in charge of the hydrant crew. I used to supervise the Hydrant Testing and Maintenance Programme for Area 4. When Vincent Allen was pre-retired, I took over the division as the acting supervisor and I acted for over two years. With that said, the knowledge I have gained over the years has enabled me to become a divisional commander,” she expressed.

Over the years Grant has chalked up numerous awards, including one from the Bureau of Standards Jamaica for invaluable contribution to that agency; the Human and Spiritual Award from Kiwanis Club of New Kingston; and an award from the St James 4-H Club for invaluable service.

And to top them all, the mother of three boys is especially proud of being the only firefighter in Jamaica to have been named Caribbean Firefighter of the Year in 2010 at the annual Caribbean Association of Fire Chiefs conference.

She is also proud of coordinating a programme for wards of the State and children's homes in St James.

“In early 2009 I was trained as a fire inspector and was stationed at the Freeport Fire Station. By the September of 2009 I was assigned to the Fire Prevention Section and within a year, one of the most significant projects came out because of the Armadale fire, which was in St Ann but impacted all of us. Because of that incident I coordinated a fire and life safety camp which was done in collaboration with the Jamaica Red Cross. We had a two-week camp for the children's homes within the parish of St James and its environs. We had over 25 wards of the State and children from the various homes in honour of the 12 girls who perished in the fire. Having realised that the girls perished, I wanted to do a fire safety intervention...geared towards those children in homes. It was achieved in July 2010. That same year, I copped the 2010 Caribbean Firefighter of the Year Award,” Grant explained.

In August 2018 Grant was selected by the senior management of Jamaica Fire Brigade to act in a research and development post which in the Office of the Commissioner. While there, she learned the rudiments of senior management which, she says, helped her to “understand the strategic intention of the Jamaica Fire Brigade”.

The proud wife, who has been married to Kevin Green for 20 years, has blazed an exemplary trail in her field and credits her family for always being supportive.

Reflecting on her career, Grant, who has 228 firefighters under her command, stressed that she is a winner.

“I am a winner, like my name 'Winsome' suggests. I am always learning and growing and mentoring and coaching others, that's me,” she said confidently.

Derval McKenzie, district officer for the fire prevention department in St James and who has been supervised by Grant for the past eight years, describes her as “a team player who motivates everyone under her command”.

“She teaches and she is very much into personal and professional development. She encourages everyone to improve themselves and she is big on quality work,” he noted.

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