Fire officers call for critical equipment

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Head of the Fire Services Association Leo Ramkissoon. FILE PHOTO –

WITH fire claiming the lives of 15 people for the year so far, the Fire Services Association is appealing for the urgent establishment of an inter-ministerial committee to expedite the acquisition of critical equipment for fire stations.

On Monday, the association is expected to make its case when it meets with National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds.

Association president Leo Ramkissoon promises to put forward compelling arguments for critical firefighting and life-saving equipment, the absence of which, he said, has left death and destruction in its path.

“There have been 15 deaths by fire, including children, Harley Persad; and mothers and daughters, Kemba and Zaya Morris from Siparia, who died because there were no fire tenders at the Penal station; and Reena Ramadhar and her daughter Rehanna Bhaggan, from Chaguanas.

“Are they (the government) waiting until more lives, homes, and business investments are lost before they act? That is not good enough.”

Mayaro MP Rushton Paray also appealed for a fire tender for Mayaro Fire Station after five buildings were recently destroyed by fire.

Before that, other businesses and structures, which left many unemployed, were also destroyed by fires because of the absence of fire tenders.

He said the fact that there were no tenders at Mayaro and reliance on tender from the Rio Claro station, 20 miles away, would have contributed to the devastation.

Paray said the single fire tender from Rio Claro covers not just Mayaro, but the extended south-eastern regions, including Biche.

Ramkissoon noted, “It is real frustrating, sad and a real disappointment that it takes such loss of property as well as threats to lives, loss of jobs and homes for those in authority to make demands of the State and to join with the association to call on the highest office holder to do something.

Paray called for the intervention of the Prime Minister, a call echoed by Ramkissoon, for Rowley to act like he did when citizens were inconvenienced to travel between Trinidad and Tobago, and an inter-ministerial committee was formed to expedite the acquisition of fast ferries to service the sea bridge.

“The lives and property of our citizens should be similarly prioritised and treated in the same way.

“We should not have to depend on the ordinary procurement processes undertaken by the Chief Fire Officer or the permanent secretary in the ministry to take charge of the situation, especially when neither can spend more than $250,000 to acquire equipment.

“That sum cannot buy a tender. The Government owes it to the population to take charge of the situation at this time and expedite the acquisition of appliances and important lifesaving equipment,” he said.

Based on the association’s advocacy for equipment, Ramkissoon said Hinds had consented to meet with them on Monday.

Ramkissoon said, “We intend to put our case as clear as possible to make the argument that the population, not just fire officers, are at an unacceptable level of risk and we ought to mature as a society from the highest office, downwards, to become more proactive and not reactive.”

Paray said the Mayaro situation is alarming and untenable and a grossly inadequate arrangement for the vast area teeming with thousands of residents, businesses, schools, and other vital institutions.

“Despite multiple devastating fires and the grave threat to human lives, our community is left defenceless without a dedicated fire tender. “

Paray said the Government’s indifference is unacceptable. He said repeated calls for a critically needed and dedicated fire tender for Mayaro, have fallen on deaf ears.

“We cannot continue to gamble with the safety of our people. The Prime Minister must urgently intervene and rectify the failure of the Minister of National Security in this regard.”