The theme selected for Fire Awareness Week 2014, could not be more in tune with the emphasis of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, on the impact of community development and community action on national life. This theme, 'Communities in Action … Supporting Fire Prevention' is precisely what must be brought about in our daily lives to ensure that instances of destruction, injury and death become rare in our country.
The reality is that the majority of the disasters occasioned by fire can be prevented, and occur within communities. Then, there are the fires that occur at relatively small businesses and, occasionally, fires that affect much larger businesses. One devastating truth which we must face is that over 100 people lose their homes to fires every month in Jamaica. Since the beginning of this year, eight children were among the 16 people who died as a result of fires. We still struggle, as a country, with the terrible consequences of parents and guardians who leave children unattended and return to find their houses ablaze, or farmers who insist on setting fires to clear bush and end up burning acres of land and threatening residential areas nearby, or criminals who use arson to both commit and conceal crimes.
The community can prevent all these things from happening.
It is the vigilance and pressure of the community that will make that parent take the child with him or her to the shop instead of leaving the child at home; it is positive community pressure that will ensure that people are prevented from setting fires to prepare land; it is positive community pressure and constant vigilance that will ensure that people with criminal intent will be intimidated by you and stay away, rather than you by them.
There is another problem that will only be solved by the community in the widest sense, and that is prank calling. The Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) is suffering from the actions of mischievous persons who continue to make false fire alarms. This wastes the resources of the JFB, including the time which would otherwise have been spent terminating genuine fires or assisting the public through building inspections and other critical fire prevention activities. This practice must stop, and I am calling on every Jamaican to cooperate in the effort make prank calls a thing of the past.
Our commitment as a ministry is that we will continue to support and enhance the efforts of our critical agency, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, as it continues to implement its mandate of fire prevention and fire safety. The ministry is continuing with the efforts to provide more fire units, and to improve the accommodation at and capacity of fire stations.
The Jamaica Fire Brigade has been serving this country since 1871. I salute the work and worth of the men and women of this critical service as they continue to toil every day of every year to preserve Jamaica's business, community and security apparatus.
Minister of State
Ministry of Local Government and Community Development