Region Four fire chief optimistic despite challenges
Despite the many challenges facing Region Four of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Assistant Commissioner Floyd McLean, who oversees the region, remains confident the service is sufficiently equipped to respond to any major disaster in the western region.
“From time immemorial, we have had a multi-agency partnership plan in place, and with our expertise in terms of search and rescue, and mass casualty handling, we have forged partnerships to develop the skill sets,” McLean said.
However, as the leader of region four, which comprises the parishes of St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, and St Elizabeth, the epicentre of the island’s tourism and the nation’s breadbasket for agricultural produce, McLean would like to see a major improvement to the region’s firefighting capacity.
“The Jamaica Fire Brigade, like the citizens, are concerned about the hard-to-reach areas.” He is advocating for the creation of more substations across the region, and is optimistic that this will happen soon. “As soon as the Government realises the fiscal space, I believe we will see facilities being erected strategically.”
“The restructuring of the fire brigade is at the implement stage … the fire brigade is actively identifying lands where fire stations can be built and we are actively looking at that,” said McLean.
In fact, McLean is hinting that substations could be established in Mocho, St James, to serve that parish as well as sections of St Elizabeth and Westmoreland; and in Ulster Spring, Trelawny, to service the Cockpit Country and adjoining areas.
Most of the fire stations in Region Four are in busy town centres. This he says creates a problem for firefighters who must often contend with congested streets, which limit their ability to move quickly. It is believed that 37-year-old Keisha Walters and her son, who recently perished in a fire that gutted their home in Berkshire, Westmoreland, could have been saved if the nearest fire station were not two hours away.McLean is appealing for greater support from residents of the region, urging them to become partners in the efforts to keep themselves safe as it relates to starting fires, which could ultimately become catastrophic bushfires capable of destroying homes, business places, and farms.
Late last year, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the Government will be pumping $2 billion into a project which will see the construction of eight new fire substations along the south coast of the island.