…again blames delay on need for equipment, furnishings
A new fire station at La Grange, West Bank Demerara is likely to open its doors before the end of this year. In
fact, Fire Chief Marlon Gentle, during an interview with this publication yesterday, was bold to predict that the opening date will be in August.
“I am confident that we are going to open the doors by then,” he asserted.
But this disclosure was not before he deliberated on whether he should comment on a conclusive timeframe by which the fire station could be opened.
“It will be opened (shortly) but I don’t know how short…but before the end of the year, definitely. I don’t want to say next week or the other week, we still have to put things in place,” said a cautious Gentle.
He pointed out that there are several measures that must be put in place before the facility could be ready for operation, and spoke of the need for equipment and furnishings.
The remarks from the Fire Chief, however, closely mirrored what he said of the very fire station last year. At that time this publication reported that while La Grange fire station appeared to be physically completed, including the addition of utility services such as water and electricity, Gentle had insisted that the facility was not ready to become operational. He offered an explanation then that “the plan for that fire station is for it to be opened later down this year (2015) because we have to acquire the equipment; we have to acquire everything.”
But this publication was privy to the fact that a fire tender was already procured for La Grange Fire Station.
Kaieteur News was informed then, too, that among the reasons for the delayed operation of the Station was the fact that the recommended level of ranks was not available to be placed there.
Gentle, however, disclosed yesterday that a number of recruits recently completed training, some of whom could make up the needed staff complement when the new fire station becomes operational.
“There has to be a whole staff turnaround, so that you have a balance of experienced people and new people,” said Gentle, who anticipates that the new station could be staffed with as much as 30 ranks. He related that this should allow for three shifts on a 24-hour basis.
“That would be adequate to at least staff a truck,” said Gentle, who noted that the Fire Station in its present state has the capacity to accommodate a fire truck (fire tender) and a tanker. “At least in the initial start up there will be a truck there,” said Gentle.
A fire station situated at the West Bank of Demerara, according to Gentle, will cater to areas between Vreed-en-Hoop and Wales, thereby improving the fire service response time should there be a fiery disaster. And this is especially important, the Fire Chief noted, given the growing housing areas especially at Parfaite Harmonie and Belle West.
Fire tenders based at Leonora and West Ruimveldt are currently tasked with responding to fires that occur along the West Bank of Demerara. There are also occasions that the GuySuCo’s Wales Estate fire tender also responds to lend some assistance.
But according to Gentle, it was long recognised that “the response time from Leonora or from Georgetown is too long to get to these areas…for fire-fighting purposes you need a shorter distance; a station closer to those areas that can respond quicker”.
This, however, does not mean that the La Grange fire station will be the only responding station for the West Bank of Demerara, as according to Gentle, it will be supported by the West Ruimveldt and Leonora stations if the need arises.
While there are known challenges that have been associated with fire-fighting countrywide, Gentle noted that the challenge may not necessarily be as difficult in many areas along the West Bank of Demerara. This is in light of the fact, he noted, that “those areas are primarily estate-type lands and more often than not there is a supply of water around the area that you could tap into…a canal or trench or something like that.”
He, however, noted that the Fire Service is currently working on a project with the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) which is expected to address the known challenges such as depleted water level in canals and trenches. The project will cater to the setting up of hydrants and water outlets that could aid fire-fighting which according to Gentle is not the area of expertise of the Fire Service. “The only thing we know about hydrants is to couple-up our hoses to feed our fire-fighting vehicles,” Gentle underscored.
But while the Fire Service has its role to play, Gentle insisted that residents also have a part to play in helping to prevent, as far as possible, fires from even occurring.
“We have been speaking ad nauseam about this issue. Persons need to do the basic things such as taking precautions,” said the Fire Chief. He added, “If you look around Guyana, there is an overwhelming level of security precautions whether grills, private security services, cameras and everything, but a person takes it hard to put in two smoke alarms, a sprinkler system in the case of larger buildings and operations, and even a basic fire extinguisher.”
Prevention, according to him, could start from the level of awareness, and the will to put systems in place to safeguard one’s own property.
“We understand that yes, there needs to be a Fire Service, but it doesn’t mean that persons must throw caution to the wind and just sit back,” said Gentle, as he pointed out that “the absence of precautions means that there will be more damage.”
According to Gentle, no fire starts big, but rather it gradually grows to destructive proportions.
“Most of the time you hear people say they see a small fire on a bed or in a room or in an office, at which point just a fire extinguisher could help…even an early warning with a smoke detector could help to alleviate a lot of damage that usually occurs.
“The fire service has to be called, it has to respond, it has to get there, we’ve got to get in, and all of these things take time, and of course fires don’t wait.”
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