Playing with fire
Pranksters draining Hanover firefighters
An increasing volume of prank calls to the Hanover Division of the Jamaica Fire Brigade has been wreaking havoc on the firefighters, who are being kept busy responding to non-existent fires, sapping their energy and resulting in unnecessary accidents in the rush to provide assistance.
“We have seen an increase in false and malicious calls to the fire station, most of which are emanating from the Cold Spring, Pondside, and Cascade areas,” said District Officer Junior Harris. “We even got two such calls as recently as the night of Wednesday, May 12.”
Harris, who was speaking at the Hanover Municipal Corporation’s latest monthly meeting, said the most recent calls came while staffers at the Lucea Fire Station were mourning the loss of the wife of one of their co-workers.
“With six such calls for the month of April, and one with good intent, that’s a lot. I can also state that since May, we have gotten a few more,” said Harris.
He told The Gleaner afterwards that the prank calls have been putting pressure on the single fire unit stationed in the western parish and causing distress to the firefighters as all calls are treated seriously and no effort is spared in their preparation and execution.
“First of all, you have the wear and tear [on the unit] and the unnecessary use of fuel, but also what it does is it takes the unit out of commission in case there is a genuine fire elsewhere,” said Harris. “For example, you get a false call from the Cold Spring area, and while you are on your way to that false call, there is a genuine fire in Bulls Bay. The time it takes for you to realise that the first call is a false alarm and then to get back to Bulls Bay, there is hardly anything you can do again while if the unit was at the station, it would take only about five minutes to reach the genuine fire.”
Lucea Mayor Sheridan Samuels described the situation as counterproductive and extremely sad.
Samuels also made an unconventional request, urging the fire personnel to see if they could develop a method of verifying calls for help by establishing contacts in the various districts across the parish.
“I know that the political representatives, mainly councillors, can help in some respect, as councillors can verify the calls for particular areas,” said Samuels.
Harris disclosed that such a method had been tried before, but the pranksters usually place calls late at night when it is difficult to get verification as their contacts could be sleeping.
Checks made by The Gleaner revealed that of the 39 calls received by the Hanover Fire Department in April, six were false alarms, and one was a false alarm with good intent.
“It is in the interest of everyone ... to desist from making those false calls because the public suffers when the unit is not around to respond to genuine fire calls,” said Harris.