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Aug 6, 2018

Troubles of Fire Department Exposed

Massive fires are not new to the island. Less than two months ago, as many as four family members were burnt to death in a horrible fire. Prior to that two infernos left hundreds of persons destitute in the prime tourism island. The troubles of the Fire Department are well-known, from tardy response time to substandard equipment. Its inability to deliver efficient services has come under question all along; the situation made worse by the congestion of housing. As the ashes begin to settle, we look at the tragic weekend in San Pedro with Duane Moody.


Duane Moody, Reporting

San Pedranos were still reeling from the most recent fire in the DFC subdivision of the island where back in June; a raging inferno killed four persons from the Nunez family when the Boca Del Rio flames erupted. But in June of 2014, an overnight fire in San Pedro left sixteen families homeless; two years later, the human impact of another massive fire on Pescador Drive in the heart of the island town saw eighty-eight persons homeless in June 2016. This weekend’s blaze was similar as images of the hellish ordeal remain etched in the minds of the eighty-seven victims and continue to flood social media. In the wake of the inferno an emergency meeting with NEMO and Town Council was held on the island.


Edmond Castro

Edmond Castro, NEMO Minister

“As we speak, most of them are staying at Hope Haven. They cannot stay there forever so within another day or two, they will be sorting out the situation, especially the renters will have the opportunity to go and find other places to rent. And NEMO has some standard packages that we will be able to have for them maybe as early as Monday in terms of mattresses, sheets, food packs, stoves and gas tanks so that they can at least have some mattress, something to sleep on, bedding and something to cook.”


The incident has also brought into sharp focus the issue of proper urban development planning. The distance between structures within a block are small and it allowed for the fire to spread quickly. As a result, there will be new building codes implemented in the wake of this tragedy.


Ted Smith

Ted Smith, Fire Chief

“When wooden structures or any structure for that matter is too close together and one of them is set on fire, then radiant heat and direct flame contact will cause the fire to spread rapidly throughout the neighbourhood.”


Daniel Guerrero

Daniel Guerrero, Mayor, San Pedro

“When it comes to fires, we have been facing problems with the planning issues; how the island was growing. Unfortunately, the island never had a plan to be honest on how it was growing. Coincidentally we had a meeting with the building unit because if you notice the housing and planning act was amended and now we don’t have a local building authority. Now we have a building unit department; that’s within the council. And yesterday morning we had a meeting; the fire chief was there and Mister Butler was there and we were talking about this issue of the congestion and how in one lot you can have five houses and that has to stop. Any lot can only have one house and you have to have the proper setbacks the way the act asks for it and we have to make sure it is good for cross ventilation and it is also good for the firemen to go in and fight the fires.”


Residents are also being asked to join in the training programme of the National Fire Service to become part of its voluntary element to assist in times of disasters like these. NEMO Minister Edmond Castro says that new trucks are also in the pipeline. But are all these plans a little too late after repeated fire casualties.


Ted Smith

“We are presently working with B.T.L. as we now speak who has offered to assist a few weeks ago. We are working with them to get two units for the island. That is on the table; an attack truck and a bowser truck—that is presently on the table and in a few months that should materialize and that should be on the island. There is no secret that the units out here are old, older than most of you here standing up and should have been replaced longer than that. There is no secret about that, but we are trying our very best to try and get that sort out.”


Edmond Castro

“We are in the process right now of seeing how we can improve the level of service to the island. We have reached out to the town council and also we are seeing how we will be able to get some of the people who always want to volunteer to come in and get trained by the fire department.”


Duane Moody

“But is it a little too late for now a reaction given that in the past—maybe a year and a half, two years—there have been four massive fires on the island; the previous one two months ago, four people died. What does it need to trigger some kind of change because it seems they have been asking for it…”


Edmond Castro

“It could never be too late; it’s like you getting a hundred dollars that was promised to you today, but you get it tomorrow. It is never too late; the money still good.  The fire department is doing what the fire department can do and we have in the pipeline two trucks.”


But for one resident, that is not good enough. Jorge Aldana, whose sister and family lost everything in the blaze, says the fire department on the island is grossly incompetent and that heads should roll because in his opinion, the fire could have been contained, preventing millions of dollars in losses.


Jorge Aldana

Jorge Aldana, San Pedro Resident

“There is absolutely no excuse to say that they couldn’t use water from the lagoon. There is absolutely no excuse. And to say that they can’t even handle a pump, then I think heads need to roll.  I’m sorry how many fire needs to occur so that we can get this right? A fire occurred here in Boca Del Rio three years ago, we had the same issue; there was a fire two years ago in the downtown area, the same issue. We had a fire that claimed the life of a few people on the island, the same issue. How many fires need to occur so that the department get their act together and stop blaming volunteers and stop blaming the faulty equipment? Their people need to be adequately trained how to handle these large fires; that’s the bottom-line. There is absolutely no excuse for them not to have contained this fire on time; the water is twenty feet away from the fire. What kinda excuse can you invent? No come tell me no fool about the trucks old and the pump couldn’t work. Then heads need to roll from the top right down to the bottom; from the fire chief need fi get ih act together.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “Troubles of Fire Department Exposed”

  1. Jason says:

    Fire depot too busy harassing cement house owners for sprinklers and extra steps to be built when he needs to focus on basics-how to out a fire

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