Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Walker's fire not preventable - Gov't 'takes no comfort' in report findings, says Green

Published:Friday | March 30, 2018 | 12:16 AMSyranno Baines
Firemen at the Walker's Place of Safety in St Andrew following the blaze.

The long-awaited report on the fire that destroyed the Walker’s Place of Safety in St Andrew, killing two female wards of the state, has highlighted that the incident was not preventable, says Floyd Green, the state minister with responsibility for youth.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) said the fire report indicated that the inferno was caused by an electrical short circuit that originated in a dorm on the first floor to the west of the building.

The January 16 blaze gutted the Lyndhurst Crescent facility in the wee hours of the morning, killing 12-year-old Anika McCrea and 16-year-old Annakay Moreland and displacing 34 other wards and their caregivers.

“It (fire report) has not pointed to anything to say to us that the fire could have been prevented,” Green told The Gleaner yesterday.

“Clearly, we take no comfort, especially considering that children were lost so. We must consistently and continuously look at our processes and procedures. We would want to not have these occurrences but, in any society, things like these will happen," reasoned Green.

"But the critical thing is that when they do happen, we have the response mechanisms.” 

The CPFSA said the fire report stated that the blaze spread rapidly throughout the building, resulting in the roof collapsing.

It was further pointed out that the home was last inspected by the fire department on July 28, 2016, and at the time it was found to be compliant with standard fire prevention practices.

It also noted that the agency commissioned a physical security inspection and assessment at Walker’s in November last year. The outcome of the assessment highlighted that the home was disaster ready, both caregivers and children, having participated in a series of training, were knowledgeable of the fire escape plan.

The agency said its own internal reports suggested that the actions of staff and wards on the night of the blaze played a significant role in reducing the loss of lives and injury.

The agency said following the fire, based on recommendations and a directive from Prime Minister Andrew Holness, it commissioned physical security inspections and assessments for all government and private-run child care facilities, which have been completed.

It further stated that it is to re-licence the facilities, noting that the agency has met with the Government Electrical Inspectorate (GEI).

“We’re going to be working with the GEI to do a more detailed study in relation to electrical installation, electrical wiring and to see if we can pick of signs of short circuits,” Green added.