MANDEVILLE, Manchester — A service station proprietor is lamenting that some motorists are refusing to follow safety instructions given to them by gas station employees despite two recent incidents of fires that took a life and damaged property.
According to Errol Edwards, proprietor of two Total service stations in the Corporate Area, motorists often ignore instructions to refrain from using cellular phones and turn off their engines while petrol is being pumped into their vehicles.
“Some customers [are] even attempting to jump-start vehicles on the pump island. Illegal parking on [the] gas station compound is also a huge problem throughout the island,” he explained.
His comments follow a motor vehicle fire at Newleigh's Texaco in Mandeville two weeks ago, which left a Mercedes Benz badly damaged, and last year's major fire at Heaven's Fesco which resulted in the death of 59-year-old Daniel Farquharson, the injury of several people, and $100 million in damage.
“The unfortunate fire at the gas station in Mandeville has heightened the safety awareness of petroleum retailers islandwide. A number of fire safety training [protocols have] taken place, many of which were conducted with fire department personnel involved,” said Edwards, a former president of the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA).
He said that training of service station staff is ongoing in techniques such as the proper use of extinguishers, fire drills, building evacuations, use of sand to put out fires, assigned roles for each staff member in an emergency, designated assembly point for staff, and counting off of each staff member on duty after an emergency.
At Newleigh's Texaco the proprietor, who identified herself only as L Wilson, dismissed claims that the service station was not equipped with trained staff and working extinguishers to handle the motor vehicle fire.
“Two of the pump attendants were there. They have all certificates, because after the fire at Heaven's, Texaco came down and had training with them and gave them certificates, but as the fire people said, 'You can train people but you can't tell them how to react when dem panic',” said Wilson.
She explained that her staff had warned the driver of the vehicle, moments before the fire, which started shortly after 8:00 am on November 25.
“A car came on the pump [and] the pump attendant saw the gas leaking under the car. She said 'I can't serve you and don't turn on your engine, please'. Of course, they were arguing with her, but she never served him. He [driver] was there for a while and wouldn't come off the pump,” Wilson said.
“Then he and his mechanic started to push it. The lady (pump attendant) came back to him and said 'You can't leave it there', because she heard something pop under [the car] and they continued to chase her off,” Wilson added.
She said people helped to push the car further and assisted in the use of fire extinguishers after the blaze started.
“I was calling for help… People ran for extinguishers… A gentleman came out of his car to help me, because by then everybody [was] gone and two of the pump attendants were left out there,” Wilson said.
She said one of the fire extinguishers was stolen during the unfolding of events.
Tyrone Sinclair, Colin Gregory and Jermaine Gayle, who all claimed that they assisted, said they rushed to grab fire extinguishers when the motor car was on fire.
“Mi see the fire and mi run come round and take up the first extinguisher. It never a work, so mi get a new one and go underneath [the car] and out it... help out the people dem,” said Sinclair.
“A fire, and everybody gone and mi nuh waan the place fi blast up, so yuh haffi just do the right thing… All the driver panicked and gone. A somebody push it [car] off the pump,” he added.
Earlier this year JGRA President Dianne Parram had told the Jamaica Observer that a more stringent approach has been taken in observing safety measures at petrol stations in recent times, even as the association eagerly awaits the new Petroleum Act.
There are about 330 petrol and service stations in Jamaica, with approximately 270 dealers being members of the JGRA.