Jelsa’s firemen turned out in force in honour of their patron saint’s day, to the delight of the local children.
Today, May 4th, was the feast day of St. Florian, protector against fire, and therefore patron saint of firemen. As is traditional, Jelsa’s firemen turned out with their fire engines to parade on the waterfront, and give a (small and well-controlled) demonstration of firefighting.
St. Florian was born in the ancient Roman city of Aelium Cetium, which is present-day St. Pölten in Austria. He was a Roman soldier during the time of Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians, but openly showed himself to be a Christian. In about 304 AD he was condemned to be burned to death, but challenged his persecutors, who then drowned him instead. Besides protecting firefighters, St. Florian is the patron saint of Upper Austria, the town of Linz, soap boilers and chimney sweeps.
Fires are a sad fact of life in Dalmatia, mostly during the hot dry summers. Some are started deliberately, like the Pitve School fire last year, but the majority are due to carelessness. In all situations, the firefighters have consistently acted with courage and skill, and people and property have been well protected.
Jelsa’s fire brigade now boasts several smart, shiny and efficient fire engines, and a small core of trained professional firemen. Their effectiveness in times of crisis has been well proven over the years. The system works very well: there is a 24-hour fire watch on the high points of the island through the summer, and for very serious fires the Canadair firefighting aeroplanes are called into action from the mainland.
On St. Florian’s feast day, the firefighters come out with their sirens blaring and lights flashing, all in fun. It’s a day when the local community can feel proud of their organization and grateful for their dedication. Let’s just hope their skills are not called for during the coming season. It’s up to all of us on the island to avoid taking risks with fire, and to be on the watch for any danger signs.
The number to call in case of fire is 93 on a local phone, or 00 385 193 from a non-Croatian mobile.