Island News

St. Florian Celebrated in Jelsa

By Vivian Grisogono 4 May 2014

Firefighters to the fore on the feast day of their patron saint.

Yesterday, May 3rd, was the feast day of St. Florian, patron saint of firefighters, an occasion traditionally celebrated with gusto by Hvar's intrepid professional and volunteer fire crews. However, the weather conditions were too bad to allow for the usual demonstrations, with rain pelting down and thunderstorms throughout the day.

Today, happily, the rain stopped and the weather lifted enough to allow for some of the firefighting activities on Jelsa's waterfront. There was a good turnout, despite the unseasonally biting bura wind which prevented the fire extinguishing demonstration.

The proceedings always start with a convoy of fire appliances making their way from Jelsa's fire station to the waterfront, sirens blaring, lights flashing. The noise sets dogs barking for miles around, and any dogs in the immediate vicinity are likely to need lavish comforting from their owners, who always remove them very quickly from the scene.

Once lined up, the fire appliances are put on show. The equipment carried on board can be inspected, and children take turns to climb into the cab of the main fire engine to play with the siren horns and make announcements through the loudhailer.

The highlight this year was a ride up into dizzying heights on the platform of the fire ladder. The ladder truck was firmly anchored in the normal way, and the youngsters were fitted with hard hats as their turn came to make the exciting journey skywards.

The firefighters' open day always generates enormous enthusiasm among the children, and their delight is readily expressed.

The day also generates interest in the firefighting profession as a future career, and some don the uniform at a very young age!

Hvar's firefighting capabilities are a vital part of the island's infrastructure. Fires are a major hazard in the Mediterranean region, most notably during the hot dry summers. It is to the credit of the island's firefighters that even the worst forest fires have produced incredibly few casualties and little damage to habitable properties.

The ground crews are backed up when necessary by Croatia's small fleet of firefighting aeroplanes (Canadairs / kanaderi) and helicopters.

Continual training is part of the secret of the firefighters' success. Less than a couple of weeks ago, on April 23rd, a group of Hvar's professional and volunteer firefighters went on a training course to Zadar, where the firefighting air fleet is stationed at Zemunik Airport.

The Hvar team, consisting of three firefighters from the Jelsa fire station, two from Hvar, two from Stari Grad and one from Sućuraj, had a very early start on the 5.30am ferry, as the journey up to Zemunik is arduous. They spent the ferry journey going over some of the technical information they were expected to know. The day course was advanced training, to familiarize the firefighters with the equipment and capabilities of each of the firefighting planes and the helicopter. The aim was to improve communication efficiency between the ground forces and the pilots in a major emergency.

It was a tiring day, the more so because the Hvar contingent was still recovering from the physical rigours of the Easter processions. Nonetheless, it seems they acquitted themselves well. Pitve's Roman Radonić was one of the firefighters who attended the course, and he reported being utterly exhausted by the end of the day, but well satisfied with the new level of expertise all the attendees had acquired.

Hvar's firefighters have a record to be proud of, and have gone from strength to strength over the years. We residents and all visitors have good reason to be grateful to them for their selfless commitment and courage in a very dangerous job.

With thanks to Igor, Roman and their colleagues for the photographs from Zemunik.