Feature
Acting Superintendent and Divisional Commander of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, St. James Division, Winsome Grant.
Photo: Okoye Henry

Responding to a newspaper ad for emergency medical technicians (EMT) at the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) has led Winsome Grant of Hanover on a career path that spans over 25 years, during which she has given outstanding service in saving lives and protecting properties.

On September 4, 2020, Senior Deputy Superintendent Grant celebrated her sterling anniversary in the JFB.

She is the Commander for the St. Elizabeth Division, the first female to be assigned that post in the parish.

“I feel so humbled, elated and blessed to be holding such a position,” says Ms. Grant, who was born in the small rural Mt. Carmel district in Hanover.

She is currently serving as the Acting Superintendent and Divisional Commander of the Brigade’s St. James Division. This is also another milestone for Ms. Grant, being the first female firefighter to be serving in the capacity.

Acting Superintendent and Divisional Commander of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), St. James Division, Winsome Grant (centre), is flanked by Acting Deputy Superintendent of the JFB, St. James Division, Tamara McLaren-Snow (left); and District Officer of Fire Prevention of the JFB, St. James Division, Derval McKenzie.

 

She tells JIS News that in addition to answering the newspaper ad, she also wanted to save lives.

At the time, she was employed at the Cascade Secondary Vocational School (now Merline Ottey High School) in Hanover, as an agriculture specialist.

“Having a family member in 1993 who died from cardiac arrest, and having the knowledge of what a paramedic is, attracted me to the JFB. I said I will be able to save lives,” Ms. Grant says.

“I never knew we were going to be trained as firefighters, but upon doing the assessment for entry, we were told that in order for us to be EMTs, we had to go through the hardcore training first, and it was good,” she adds.

Having completed her training, Ms. Grant was first assigned to the Barnett Street Fire Station in 1995 as the first female firefighter in the St. James Division. Under mentorship from various stalwarts in the organisation, she went on to pioneer various departments and programmes throughout her career.

“I worked as an EMT at the Ironshore fire station for over 10 years. I was transferred to Lucea to act as the person in charge of fire prevention for the parish for a year in 2011. Then I came back to St. James and was in charge of hydrant testing, inspection, maintenance and servicing. I was also the supervisor in the capacity of an Assistant Superintendent in charge of fire prevention for St. James,” She tells JIS News.

In 2018, she was temporarily transferred to the Brigade’s headquarters to act in the position of research and planning as a Deputy Superintendent for a year. Ms. Grant later returned to St. James where she did an assessment for the divisional commander position for St. Elizabeth and was successful.

Her education is also equally impressive as her work, having successfully completed her Commonwealth Executive Master in Public Administration at the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean in 2018.

The former Rusea’s High School student is now looking to pursue a PhD in Organisational Leadership and Behaviour.

She has also copped several national and regional awards throughout the years, such as Caribbean Firefighter of the Year in 2010.

“I am very committed to the communities, firefighters and civilian staff that I serve. The JFB is a citizen-centred fire and rescue service, which provides high-quality emergency response and value-added services,” Ms. Grant notes.

She recounted one of the proudest moments in her career when she helped to save the life of a mother and her newborn.

“One moment that stood out in my mind throughout my career was being an EMT in 1998. We went into the Flanker community [in St. James] and there was a female who was in labour. It was a very awful situation where that person was coming down with a fit (seizure) and we were able to reassure the person and delivered the baby. When we went to the hospital, the emergency doctors commended us, because they said it was a life-and-death situation,” Ms. Grant tells JIS News.

She also displays the same level of commitment to her community through several initiatives, such as being the Public Relations Officer for the 4-H Advisory Council; President of youth leaders, Hanover; member of the Lucea Community Development Action Committee; member of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, and more.

She was also the coordinator and founder of Jamaica’s first Fire & Life Safety Camp in 2010.That was done in honour of the seven girls who died from fire-related injuries at the Armadale facility in St. Ann.

“We are asking the public to take fire prevention precautions seriously. The JFB is [appealing] to everyone when it comes to fire-safety sensitisation,” Ms. Grant said.

“To our youth who have interest in joining the JFB, I can assure you that the entity is a meaningful organisation that can help to mould you into a worthwhile citizen. The JFB does not discriminate; we respond to any emergency anywhere,” she adds.

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