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Jun 13, 2018

Why is the Prime Tourism Island without Adequate Equipment and Services to Fight Fires?

As the family grieves their sudden loss, sharp questions arise as to the state of essential services on the island. The fire trucks were not able to tackle the inferno and soon ran out of water. Residents of the prime tourism island are looking for answers as to why, despite previous destructive fires, the island remains with a proper fire service. The NEMO Minister was put on the spot today if it will take four deaths for government to improve the fire department. News Five’s Duane Moody has the following report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The tragic fire in San Pedro, during and even after the firefighting, has brought into sharp focus several issues concerning the response by the National Fire Service on the island. There is a severe lack of resources on a tourist destination that is fast-growing. The two water trucks at the San Pedro station are inadequate to service big fires. Fire officials say that they received the call around three-thirty, forty-five minutes after the blaze started.

 

Orin Smith

Orin Smith, Station Manager, National Fire Service [File: June 12th, 2018]

“There are two units in San Pedro. These units, compared to what we have in Belize City, are pretty much small. The combine of both trucks I think has an approximate seven hundred gallons. If you get on the scene and you use three lengths of hose, seventy millimeter by one hundred foot length, it takes thirty gallons to full one length of hose. That’s ninety gallon. If you are using two branch pipe that discharge one hundred gallons per minute, that’s two hundred and ninety gallons per minute being discharged. Out of seven hundred gallons, you have at least just over two and a half minutes of firefighting before the trucks had to leave the scene to find water supply and that is what occurred.”

 

An official report from the National Fire Service is pending as investigations continued today at the scene in the Escalante subdivision on the island.  Minister Castro, aside from sharing condolences with the family, says that he is expecting a full report on what transpired.

 

Edmond Castro

Edmond Castro, NEMO Minister

“Be getting my brief from the fire department as to what went good and what went wrong and see where we could best improve. Each time there is an emergency or a fire, we try to sit down and see how best we can do a better job next time.”

 

Reporter

“Are you looking to improve the equipment of the firefighters out there?”

 

Edmond Castro

“It’s a constant struggle that we are constantly trying to improve the equipments that we have. Some of our trucks are very old; some are from 1969, but with the limited resources we are doing our best to make sure that we can do a little better next time.”

 

Officials at the National Fire Service have been clamouring for better and upgraded equipment. In recent times in the Old Capital, several trucks malfunctioned during firefighting efforts. In the case of San Pedro, in July 2014 sixteen families were left homeless following an overnight fire in the San Mateo area. And then in June 2016, there was another massive inferno on Pescador Drive in the center of the town in which eighty-eight persons were left homeless after the biggest fire in the history of the island occurred. Residents say that back then, water hydrants were promised, but still have not materialized.

 

Edmond Castro

“We have ordered some pumps that I think will be assisting the fire department out in San Pedro and Caye Caulker.”

 

Reporter

“Residents of San Pedro have expressed anger because at the last fire which was probably a year ago, they were promised a fire truck from then. How recent is the proposal that you are speaking of to get fire trucks for the island?”

 

Edmond Castro

“That might have been true. They think the fire trucks, especially the Tonka, Tonka ones them don’t come easy; they are very expensive. So we were looking at a different operations in terms of trying to buy some of the water trucks. Most of the fire trucks depend on a water source to provide the water to out fire. The reason why we are looking at water trucks is to have about three thousand gallons to start the war with.”

 

So will it take the death of four persons cause action to be taken?

 

Reporter

“Is there a commitment from your ministry and from the larger government at hand to get in new fire trucks because aren’t we supposed to be concerned about citizen safety?”

 

Edmond Castro

“It’s a constant struggle my brother. The most recent proposal for us is to try and see how we can get some water trucks with some three thousand gallon tanks and some four thousand gallon tanks that will assist the fire trucks that we have. Most of the fire trucks that we currently have, if they are twenty years old, they are considered pretty good, but in some cases they are as old as me. So we are trying to see how we can faze them out. Recently we received donation of a fire truck for Caye Caulker and so we have pledged to receive two fire trucks—I think one for Corozal and one for the Toledo district for P.G.  And we also ordered couple pumps for San Pedro and Caye Caulker. We should be getting them soon.”

 

…but is soon a little too late for the Nunez family? Duane Moody for News Five.

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