Fire officers face blaze without PPE in San Fernando

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FIRE IN HIS EYES:
A firefighter closes his eyes tightly in an effort to shut out the smoke as he battles a bush blaze on Balisier Avenue, San Fernando, on Sunday. The Fire Service Association of TT last week complained of a gross lack of the personal protective equipment needed for its officers to fight the nation’s fires. – Jeff Mayers

For the most part, the people who would normally frequent Balisier Avenue – workers at the San Fernando Licensing Office, the Forestry Division and Southern Sales and Services – were all enjoying their Sunday at home or with family and preparing for the week of work.However, there was one group of dedicated people, fire officers, who were on their jobs on Sunday, facing a raging bush fire opposite the Licensing Office that threatened the three buildings and reduced visibility significantly for drivers.

A leaky water hose sprays water in the air and on the ground as firefighters use it to battle a blaze on Balisier Avenue, San Fernando, on Sunday. – Jeff Mayers

But, as was reported last week in the Newsday, these officers had to face the flames without proper equipment, risking their lives to fight the fire.

Newsday photographer Jeff K Mayers spotted the officers charging into the smoke and flames only protected partially by fire-retarding pants, T-shirts, boots and braces. Officers had oxygen tanks but no breathing apparatus. Instead they wore berets on their heads, more for their bravery than their safety.

A firefighter stands in the smoke without the benefit of proper personal protective equipment as he battles a bush blaze on Balisier Avenue, San Fernando, on Sunday. – Jeff Mayers

One officer cautioned Mayers, saying that there were tyres burning among the bushes.

“If you want to have children, cameraman, don’t inhale that,” the officer said before charging into the smoke himself.

They also had to grapple with faulty equipment such as leaky hoses.

A firefighter can barely be seen through the smoke as he battles a bush blaze on Balisier Avenue, San Fernando, without the benefit of proper personal protective equipment on Sunday. – Jeff Mayers

Last week fire officers spoke out, saying their work was hindered by a lack of equipment, after a fire in Penal on Easter Monday almost claimed the lives of six fire officers.

One of four firefighters enjoys the benefit of a breathing mask as the officers battle a bush blaze on Balisier Avenue, San Fernando, on Sunday. – Jeff Mayers

One fire officer said then, expressing concern for the lives of his team and himself, “The next call I go on and we are put in a position where we do not have the necessary instruments, John Public is going to die.”