May 04, 2021 Letters
I wish to offer my sincerest sympathy to the owner of Sharon’s Mall; the various store owners that operate within that building and the employees who are without a job and income. It is a sad reality that we lost a building of this magnitude – lawyers, proprietors, expatriates and local Guyanese, all operated out of that building. To think about the families who are now without an income, their families and the worry they must be going through at this time is truly saddening.
I have noted from various press coverage that there were only 20 firefighters tending to the fire at such an imposing building. This, to me, is total ludicrous. A fire of such gargantuan level needed more personnel to tend to it. This horrific incident has cemented my conviction that Guyana needs to undergo a certain evolution in firefighting techniques with some suggestions as follow:
1) We need to have modern buildings equipped or installed with fire suppression systems. It must be a prerequisite for offices, commercial buildings and homes alike to have these systems put in place.
2) A great need for modernised trucks with automatic ladders that can reach a minimum of 10 storeys in order to prepare for the future.
3) The Fire Station needs to be moved from its current abode, Water Street. It is surrounded by markets, vendors and bus parks thus constricting the free flow of movements, which is critical in tending to a fire in a timely manner. I believe that we are still locked in the colonial era where that has always been the base for the fire tenders in Georgetown. Incidentally, that area is called “Donkey City.” We have evolved and we have to continue to evolve away from the old way of seeing and doing things in this country.
The government needs to act in haste on the following:
· Consider the most modern fire system in this country. Nowadays, firefighters elsewhere are forging through the flames with high-tech gear such as thermal imaging cameras to help them see where they are going and drones to get an eye in the sky perspective. Firefighting jetpacks are not just a fantasy for Dubai, they are the real deal. The water-propelled jetpacks were purchased by the United Arab Emirates in 2015 as a way to avoid traffic by turning to the SEA. Now, we may not be able to afford this at the moment but this is something we can consider in maybe 5 or 10 years’ time as we progress as a nation.
· To protect our firefighters with the proper gear/apparatus that does not burn in fires.
· Fire trucks need to be at strategic areas, example, the National Cultural Centre, near the seawall on Vlissengen Road, Mercy Hospital, near to the American and Canadian embassies. We can also have one on the East Coast of Demerara near the Shell Service Station or the University of Guyana, Turkeyen Campus, on the East Bank of Demerara near the Demerara Harbour Bridge. Those are some of the strategic areas we can place fire stations for more effectiveness.
· All homes, all businesses must be compelled to carry fire extinguishers and sand buckets. Some people may say and very well so, that they cannot afford to purchase fire instruments, but the government can use monies from the Norway Fund to help the poor acquire the critical equipment that is so needed in every home.
· There must be a system set up in this country to have people trained to use a fire extinguisher. People should be educated on how to use a bucket of sand to put out small fires. The bucket must be painted in RED. This education must be made available to the public via all social media platforms, and posted at all RDCs and NDCs. Even the primary and secondary school aged children should be taught how to extinguish a fire by using an extinguisher or a sand bucket. They can in turn train their parents. The relevant fire personnel can also make special effort to visit schools to offer training. In fact, one person per household should be trained as a firefighter in this country. Every business, both public and private sector should hold training seminars for its employees as a precautionary measure. Members of the Guyana Police Force can greatly assist in getting this proactive measure into speedy effect.
In reference to the Sharon’s Mall fire, I believe that three-wheelers vehicles can be very effective in Guyana given the narrow, congested roads we have in Georgetown. These vehicles are very popular in China, India and other parts of Asia. In Egypt, these three-wheeler extinguishers are highly used and have come in for high praises. One of my corporations can easily supply these vehicles. They can carry chemicals and even small amount of water to tend to small fires and in the interim of large fires before the fire trucks get to the burning building. Had we been a forward-thinking nation, maybe that fire at the Mall would have been halted to an extent.
It is contemptible that once again, fire trucks turn up at a burning building with damaged hoses, low or no water and fire hydrants not in good working order. Where is the preventative maintenance mentality? How many more losses do we need? Are we really moving forward as a nation? We can do better. We must recover and triumph!
Haji Dr. Roshan Khan Snr.
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