Regional

Even if Buckingham Palace were there we couldn't save it!

Outdated equipment hobbles St Thomas Fire Department

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 19, 2013    

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FIREFIGHTERS in St Thomas cringe whenever they are called to the scene of a major fire as they know there is not much they can save.

The parish's two fire stations in Morant Bay and Yallahs have for years been struggling with a lack of adequate equipment, as well as two limping units, one of which has been in use for 17 years.

The parish's fire chief, Denzil Roper, speaking at a meeting last week during a visit by Local Government Minister Noel Arscott to the St Thomas Parish Council, said the firefighting tools presently being used by his men and women have not kept up with demographic changes in the parish, which has seen huge growth in both residences and businesses. As such, he said, his team has not been as effective as they should, despite their best efforts.

The fire chief said that, for the past 38 years, the department has never saved a structure from being burnt to the ground in the Golden Grove area, as a result of the distance from both the Morant Bay and Yallahs fire stations, coupled with the deplorable road conditions which make accessing the communities challenging.

The situation, he said, has been compounded by the fact that the three-inch water mains used to channel water to the communities cannot facilitate the installation of a fire hydrant.

"Even if Buckingham Palace [were] there we couldn't save it," he rued.

Roper has, in the meantime, recommended that two more fire stations or outposts be built in the St Thomas Division, with one of them being in or near Golden Grove and the other in Trinityville.

"Because of the lack of funding we are still only able to function in parochial mode from 1958," he said. "We need to get serious capital input into the parish.," he added.

The department currently has a staff complement of 66 members.

Some councillors, meanwhile, questioned if it was true that a fire unit, which was donated to the parish, was transferred elsewhere.

In response, Minister Arscott explained that a truck was in fact donated, but that it was not suitable for the terrain, given its size.

"They are trying to send another one, but because of the age of that unit there might be some problems getting it into the island," he told the council. He noted, however, that Government was trying to acquire additional units, both for the parish and elsewhere.

"The plan is to buy three or four units every year," the minister said.

Editor's note:

This story, which appeared in yesterday's Observer North East was not carried in its entirety because of a technical glitch, for which we apologise.

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