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We are living dangerously - Lack of fire boat hampering firefighters in St. James

Published:Monday | September 21, 2015 | 9:00 AMChristopher Thomas

WESTERN BUREAU:

Dolfin Doeman, the chief of the St James Fire Department, said the absence of a fireboat has significantly reduced the capacity of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) to fight fires on the seas surrounding towns like Montego Bay.

"A fireboat is quite a necessary piece of equipment for cities such as ours which has a seaport. We have cruise ships and other vessels coming into Montego Bay, and we also have premises that are lying along the coastline, and we have an airport," Doeman told The Gleaner.

"If we should have an aeroplane disaster in the sea, a fireboat would be a critical piece of equipment to have, and we are without that now," lamented Doeman. "The critical effect of not having a fireboat will not be known until something happens ... . We have been very lucky so far that nothing has happened to the port of Montego Bay, or the seas around Montego Bay, in recent times."

Within the last five years, numerous calls have been made for a fireboat to be assigned to aid the JFB in fighting fires along Jamaica's north coast, especially in St James and adjoining parishes. The region has been without a fireboat since 2008, when the vessel that was assigned to the region was damaged when heavy winds blew it into rocks along the Montego Bay coastline.

During an audit of the Fire Brigade in 2014, it was also revealed that a fireboat, which was assigned to the Ocho Rios Pier in St Ann, was also out of service since 2013, due to engine failure. The JFB subsequently indicated that it would provide fireboats for the ports in Kingston, Ocho Rios, Falmouth and Montego Bay, but that has not happened.

Asked whether plans have been drafted to secure a new boat, Doeman acknowledged that the St James Parish Council has been lobbying on the Fire Department's behalf to acquire a vessel.

 

PLANS IN GEAR

 

"I can tell you that the parish council has been pushing to see how they could assist us in getting a boat, but up to now we have not been given any commitment as to when any such thing will happen," said Doeman.

"I know plans are afoot with work on the fire station, in getting that started ... we are looking at the possibility of it starting before this financial year ends, or, if not, early in the next financial year."

In a recent interview with The Gleaner, Montego Bay's mayor, Councillor Glendon Harris, said that provision was being made in the Government's 2015-2016 Budget for St James to get a new fire station and a new fireboat.

"Both things are slotted in for 2015-2016, and they are going to be delivered within this financial year if they (Government) get the fiscal space," said Harris. "I know they are in this year's Budget, but we are keeping our fingers crossed to see what will come within the specified period."