34 deaths as Fire Brigade receives more than 15,000 emergency calls in 10 months — McKenzie
Local Government and Rural Development Minister Desmond McKenzie

KINGSTON, Jamaica— The Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) received a total of 15,056 emergency calls during the period of April 2021 to February 2022.

Of that number, 1,586 people were displaced because of fires, 77 people including 13 firefighters were injured and 34 people died.

This was disclosed on Wednesday by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Desmond McKenzie, during his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.

“Despite the JFB’s hard work, I remain concerned about the number of fires that are occurring, many of which were entirely preventable. There is still much to be done to get our citizens to accept greater personal responsibility to prevent the death and devastation caused by fires,” McKenzie said.

He reminded that on March 24, two young girls, three-year-old Abigail Thompson and her sister, four-year-old Kayla Thompson, perished in a house fire in Clarendon.

“A terrible record was also set through this tragedy, as these two precious little ones were the first fire-related deaths of 2022,” McKenzie noted.

He said this was why public education and outreach through the JFB’s Community and Life Safety Programme continues to be relevant and crucial. He shared that in the last financial year, 341 fire drills were conducted in schools, workplaces, and places of safety across the island.

Meanwhile, McKenzie is pleading with Jamaicans to desist from placing fake calls to the fire brigade.

“Every fake call to the JFB has the chance of causing damage and death, because firefighters were diverted away from people who genuinely need help,” he said.

The Minister noted that over the last five years, there has been a downward trend in the number of prank calls, which previously had a yearly average of 2,000. But, he lamented that in 2021, there were 1,174 prank calls, a five per cent increase over the 1,119 recorded in 2020.

“I am asking for greater responsibility, both at a personal level and also in the supervision of children, to sharply reduce the number of prank calls,” McKenzie pleaded.

He also urged elected representatives at every level, to advocate a culture of fire awareness and fire prevention.

In the meantime, the local government minister shared that 894 fire hydrants were maintained and 295 repaired, while 6,024 buildings were inspected.

“I cannot overemphasise the point that fire safety is everybody’s business. I also want to urge those who continue to make prank calls to the Fire Brigade to stop doing it,” he said.

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