We ambush him once the press conference was over. My young colleague signaled to me and we turned on our phones. We approached him with some pretext that we had previously rehearsed, clarify something, write the name and position correctly...We had planned it during the few minutes that he was talking with other journalists. We wasted our time.
Alexander Ávalos Jorge was willing, without protocols, to talk about this unfortunate event that has left his eyes irritated due to lack of sleep and occasional burn.
The Chief of the Extinction Department of the Cuban Fire Department had just arrived from the field, where soldiers work incessantly to put an end to this incident that has already cost us too much "we were surprised the first day. We had never seen a fire of such a magnitude before,” he confesses, and his voice changes, as if each of the victims/heroes of that early morning squeezed his throat.
The chief is a firefighter "since he was 8 years old, from my activity groups, imagine" and to this day, he is part of that very humane rescue and rescue brotherhood, no tricks were needed, he was ready for all sorts of questions. He himself did the exploration work and was ready for this improvised press center at the Bahía restaurant.
We waited for him there, wanting to know everything. How much longer will it take? What are the strategies? What are the remaining risks? The extinction may take days, as a considerable amount of foam will have to be applied, but nobody thinks about resting. While we were talking, we could see some helicopters that were still working across the bay to smooth the blazes.
We had already an idea because of the lighter coloration of the smoke over the city, but Lieutenant Colonel Ávalos confirmed it for us, during the exploration, what he saw was smoke coming out, the tanks are consumed, "a little air blew and the flames ignited, like when you blow air into charcoal,” he explains.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Ávalos arrived from Cienfuegos in Havana to assume his new responsibility in the National Directorate of the Cuban Fire Department and between the unfortunate events of the Saratoga Hotel and this large fire, it seems as if life were testing him. But has no doubts. He is a firefighter and that is forever. His brother and son are also firefighters: "it is inexplicable. You unintentionally encourage the family to join the department."
The fire has been huge. But the determination and will of these men and women has an enormous dimension, indescribable.
Is there still risk? "As long as there is fire, combustion, there is risk. But it is not that huge fire. The fire is under control. We have now more opportunity to get ready to attack the fire with all we have.”
Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSi Translation Staff