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Disputed 'ole fire truck' stranded in Portmore

Published:Sunday | August 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
The fire truck donated to Morant Bay by the Hartford City Council at the fire station in Portmore, St Catherine. - File

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

A fire truck donated by the city of Hartford Connecticut to the St Thomas Parish Council and parked at the Portmore Fire Station in Waterford, St Catherine, for years, has remained useless, despite the numerous reports of fire in drought-ridden Jamaica and the truck's superior operating capacity.

The truck - which was at the centre of an international investigation after a series of misunderstandings which threatened the reputation of one of the principals at the heart of its donation - has been described by those in the know as "ole, and of no use to Jamaica, except for training purposes".

Emilio Ebanks, communications officer of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, said he could not say why the truck has never been used in Jamaica, but told The Sunday Gleaner it was parked at the Portmore Fire Station.

"I can only tell you that is where the truck is located. I know that because I saw it there. But speak with the assistant commissioner, Errol Mowatt, or Warren Malcolm for further information," Ebanks said.

Both men were said to be in meetings when The Sunday Gleaner attempted to contact them. Neither responded to subsequent messages.

Unfit for use

A source close to the matter, and with knowledge of the circumstances of the truck's arrival in Jamaica six years ago, said it was unfit for use in the fleet of trucks in the service, despite its many features.

"It was an ole truck. And what it would cost to rehabilitate it then to make it road worthy was too much and, in my judgment, it was not worth it," the source said.

The truck has been a source of contention since it arrived in Jamaica almost six years ago.

Sergeant Andrew Lawrence, a Jamaican from the United States who made the donation happen, was placed under investigation as reports reached the city of Hartford that the truck was missing in Jamaica.

The investigation set in train an international search for the 100-foot ladder, wide-bodied fire truck.

In 2008, the Hartford City Council passed a resolution to send the truck, valued at thousands of United States dollars, to Morant Bay as part of the Sister City Programme, which promotes international cooperation between communities.

The investigation was triggered after the Hartford city council passed another resolution to send another fire truck to Morant Bay, and questions were raised about the previous truck.

The investigation is said to have strained the Sister City programme relationship between Morant Bay and Hartford. The truck was donated to Jamaica during the tenure of former minister with responsibility for local government, Robert Montague.

Too wide for Morant Bay roads

Montague told Sunday Gleaner last year that the National Works Agency's Inspectorate Department said the truck could not be accommodated in Morant Bay because of its weight and length and the narrow roads in the eastern parish.

Montague said it was equipped to be used as an emergency vehicle with a ladder long enough to be used as a bridge in the event of flooding.

At the time, Montague said the Airports Authority of Jamaica said the truck was unsuitable for airport operations, but it could be parked at Boscobel and used for patrolling services on the highway.

It was decided to use it for training at Twickenham Park, but it apparently never left the Portmore fire station, where it was parked more than a year ago.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com