Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Fire team bemoans strained resources

Published:Wednesday | November 2, 2016 | 11:23 PM

Jodi-Ann Gilpin

Gleaner Writer

Staff members at the Mandeville Fire Station are anticipating risks and further resource constraints, as stakeholders prepare for the reopening of the Alpart plant.

The Alpart bauxite/alumina plant in Nain, St Elizabeth, is expected to resume refining operations in the 2016/17 financial year. This was disclosed by Minister of Transport and Mining Mike Henry, during his contribution to the 2016/17 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on June 8.

Rohan Powell, assistant superintendent at the Mandeville Fire Station indicated that serving the parishes of St Elizabeth, Clarendon, St Ann, Trelawny and Manchester, the fire service encounters severe constraints on a daily basis. He noted that urgent attention needed to be paid to improving the quality of resources available.

"Currently with what exists we are seriously challenged. The parish of Manchester is so geographically divided that travel time from Mandeville town centre to the farthest points is seriously impacted. The Alpart plant falls between us and the Junction fire station even though it is in St Elizabeth we cover borders," he said as he addressed journalists at a Gleaner jobs and growth forum held on Monday at the Mandeville Hotel.

"Presently, we are fortunate to have for the past three months, two working pumpers and we are going through a restructuring process in the service. However, Manchester needs at least two more fire stations. We need a fire station out at Newport and we need one in the Mile Gully area to adequately cover the Manchester area and to serve its environs," he said.

"Now with all of these plans and the infrastructural development in addition to the influx of people, lives will be at risk, we are talking about the roadways becoming more congested, possibility of more motor vehicle accidents and Alpart itself bringing a whole new dimension."

Powell stressed that access to water in addition to several other facilities are needed to get the station to a satisfactory level.

"We are first responders to anything and all of these things with the limited resources will be seriously challenged. We ourselves are seriously challenged from the point of work space. In service training we don't have the space. Advanced life support services for our staff are things that are needed," he declared.

"Access to water is very serious. You will pass a lot of fire hydrants but there is no water in them because the water system is not favourable. We would love for a water tank to be placed specifically at the Mandeville station. When we respond to incidents, we just go to cool down because these persons would have lost everything by the time we got there. It takes an hour and 20 minutes to get to some locations."