Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Letter of the Day: Let's get fired up over firefighting

Published:Friday | June 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Tuesday night's television news carried yet another report of a building destroyed by fire. The fire unit dispatched to deal with that blaze was one of the department's newest, yet it could not complete the journey.

Each time a building is destroyed, or a life lost by fire, the brigade is harshly criticised. But is this fair? The fire department is woefully short of the resources. There is just so much our firefighters can do without critical resources.

For the first four months of 2015, the fire department received 4,726 calls - 3,467 of which were genuine. Another 183 fires were extinguished before the units arrived and 590 were legitimate special services (non-fire) calls. Almost 500 were prank calls.

Perhaps it is time to take another look at our fire-safety arrangements to determine whether this is the best we can do for ourselves. It cannot be said too often that the days of waiting on Government to think for us and do everything are over. Government is perilously low on funds. But we must ask ourselves what would happen if there were a fire at Kintyre or Gordon Town and the units were to travel from Half-Way Tree at peak hour. They would only reach for 'cooling-down operations'.

The parish of Trelawny has one fire station at its northern end in Falmouth. If there was a fire in Albert Town to the south, by the time the engine chugged up those hills, it would be too late even for cooling-down operations.

Maybe it is time to introduce some community-based initiatives. Before a fire becomes a big fire, it was a small fire. The fire department has some excellent training officers. They could train community volunteers in the safe use of hand-portable and wheeled fire extinguishers.

Water is now the exclusive fire-suppression agent. But its liquid and conductive properties can cause as much damage as the fire itself. Suitable locations could be identified in critical areas to install extinguishers. Volunteers, consisting of responsible residents, could use these extinguishers to put out small fires before they start to spread rapidly.

The fire department should be in possession of contact numbers for several persons in each community to confirm that a fire call is genuine.

An excellent initiative was introduced by the department to sensitise communities about

fire prevention and management. They are now going over their material before the programme is relaunched.

Portable extinguishers can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or limiting damage until the fire department arrives.

Glenn Tucker


Stony Hill, St Andrew