HDC spends $33m on fire-suppression measures for 65 buildings

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

– JEFF K MAYERS

THE Housing Development Corporation has spent just over $33 million on their fire-suppression programme at 65 of their apartment buildings.

In response to questions by Newsday, HDC said 65 of its 103 buildings that are over four storeys high, were retrofitted under the programme.

“We have invested $33,818,561.65 thus far and are aiming to finish the programme as quickly as possible. The HDC is continuing the programme while reviewing all options to effectively and efficiently manage the risk impact on apartment buildings. Until this is complete, an overall cost cannot be provided.”

Relatives of Edward Rondon, 67, who died on Wednesday night after his Charford Courts, Charlotte Street, Port of Spain apartment caught fire, blamed HDC for failing to provide fire escapes which they said could have prevented his death.

Fire officials said they responded to a fire at apartment 303, Building F, at about 10.30 pm. When they arrived, they were told one man was still in the apartment and an elderly woman had been rescued.

Rondon’s wife, Joan Gibson-Rondon, 69, is warded at the intensive care unit at the Port of Spain General Hospital. Her daughter Cynda Gibson-Williams told Newsday that she has been “in and out” of consciousness since Wednesday night.

She added that the autopsy for her step-father is expected to be completed next week.

Rondon’s charred remains were found under a chair close to a window after the fire was put out. The couple was married on December 2 last year.

On Thursday, the HDC said buildings more than four floors high would be retrofitted with dedicated fire, water storage and distribution equipment, sprinklers and smoke detectors as part of the fire suppression programme.

It said the programme would be based on the age of the building. Charford Court was built in the early 1980s and is yet to be outfitted.

Wednesday’s incident was not the first time the HDC had been blamed for deaths of its tenants in fires.

In an arson attack, four people, Lisa Charles, 46, Akeem Young, 15, Deniecia Campbell, two and 10-month-old Destiny Lara died on December 20, 2011.

In 2017, 92-year-old retired police officer Christopher Warner died in a fire at his Old St Joseph Road, Port of Spain, apartment.

After both instances HDC promised to upgrade its fire-safety mechanisms.