Fri | Dec 14, 2018

Walker's fire was not preventable - report - - Electrical short circuit cited as cause of deadly January blaze

Published:Saturday | March 31, 2018 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer
Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Jamaica Fire Brigade in dialogue while at the Walker’s Place of Safety in January shortly after the fire that resulted in the deaths of two wards of the State.

The long-awaited report on the fire that destroyed the Walker's Place of Safety in St Andrew, killing two female wards of the State, has highlighted that the incident was not preventable, says Floyd Green, state minister with responsibility for youth.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) said that the fire report indicated that the inferno was caused by an electrical short circuit that originated in a dorm on the first floor to the west of the building.

The January 16 blaze gutted the Lyndhurst Crescent facility in the wee hours of the morning, killing 12-year-old Anika McCrea and 16-year-old Annakay Moreland and displacing 34 other wards and their caregivers.

"It (fire report) has not pointed to anything to say to us that the fire could have been prevented," Green told The Gleaner on Thursday.

"Clearly, we take no comfort, especially considering that children were lost. So we must consistently and continuously look at our processes and procedures. We would want to not have these occurrences, but in any society, things like these will happen," reasoned Green.

"But the critical thing is that when they do happen, we have the response mechanisms."

The CPFSA said that the fire report stated that the blaze spread rapidly throughout the building, resulting in the roof collapsing.

It was further pointed out that the home was last inspected by the fire department on July 28, 2016, and at the time, it was found to be compliant with standard fire-prevention practices.


Security inspection


It also noted that the agency commissioned a physical security inspection and assessment at Walker's in November last year. The outcome of the assessment highlighted that the home was disaster ready, both caregivers and children, having participated in a series of training, were knowledgeable about the fire escape plan.

The agency said that its own internal reports suggested that the actions of staff and wards on the night of the blaze played a significant role in reducing the loss of lives and injury.

The agency said that following the fire, based on recommendations and a directive from Prime Minister Andrew Holness, it commissioned physical security inspections and assessments for all government and private-run childcare facilities, which have been completed.

It further stated that it is to relicense the facilities, noting that the agency has met with the Government Electrical Inspectorate (GEI).

"We're going to be working with the GEI to do a more detailed study in relation to electrical installation, electrical wiring, and to see if we can pick up signs of short circuits," Green added.