Tue | Dec 6, 2016

PORT ROYAL: Forsaken‎ & forgotten

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson
Gladstone Taylor / Photographer The Port Royal fire station
Gladstone Taylor / Photographer the remains of the burnt out bar adjacent the Port Royal fire station.
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Residents of Port Royal are burning hot over the failure of the fire service to place a unit at the recently refurbished fire station in the community which is home to several historic buildings, some more than 250 years old.

And the explanation from the fire service is doing nothing to douse the fury of the residents, who point to a new year's blaze which destroyed a historic bar while firefighters watched helplessly.

"Port Royal gets less than 10 fire calls for the year in comparison to a Half-Way Tree, which might get more than 150 calls. If you put yourself in our shoes, we have to be performing a balancing act," explained Emilio Ebanks, public relations officer at the Jamaica Fire Brigade, last week.

residents not impressed

Ebanks said that due to the low number of fires, the Port Royal Fire Station, which last week had a unit parked there, is usually among the first to be relieved of its unit whenever a greater need arises elsewhere.

This, however, has not impressed the residents, who charged that the unit was placed at the station last Saturday, the same day that a major birthday party was staged in the community.

"Tell me now, how you explain that? The fire station right next door, with fireman, and there is no fire truck inside it to help put out the fire. At one point we think the station was going to ketch fire too," fumed one male resident as he remembered the blaze which destroyed the bar some two weeks ago.

"This shows more than the fire; it show the rest of Jamaica how Port Royal people are forgotten and forsaken," he said, citing a labyrinth of blocked drains, mosquito infestation, inadequate housing, constant disruptions in utility services, and political division among the community's problems.

He claimed that there has been more than 60 fires in Port Royal in the last two years.

Shana Davidson, who lost her house in Port Royal to fire last November, claimed the community has recorded 11 major fires since last summer.

"I didn't save anything. I ran to the fire station and they told me that they didn't have any units to come help me," said Davidson, as she recounted the horror the day her house went up in flames.

"I ran over to the Coast Guard and they told me that they have a truck but it have holes and was leaking. I just had to come over and watch me tings dem burn up. Only the clothes on my back I saved; everything in the house burn up," added Davidson.

According to fire sergeant, Norris Munroe, the original fire truck stationed at Port Royal developed engine problems in the summer last year, and has not been operational since then.

"No truck usually means fewer firefighters on duty," said Munroe, as he explained that Port Royal is vulnerable due to its distance from the mainland, and the many old wooden structures there.