Point Fortin Fire Station opening postponed

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The new Point Fortin Fire Station at Techier main road. – Photo by Narissa Fraser

THE new Point Fortin Fire Station is up and running but its official opening ceremony had to be postponed on April 23 said National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds on that day’s Senate sitting.

Hinds blamed the postponement on challenges encountered by the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) in its preparation for the ceremony.

Replying to a question in the Senate on Tuesday, Hinds said, “I was advised by Udecott (that) due to event logistics they had to reschedule the ceremonial opening to a short new date and I, as minister, complied. This is a Udecott project. Although today’s ceremonial opening of the Point Fortin Fire Station has been rescheduled, the officer in charge and men and women stationed there have moved in and are ready for business.”

But contacted for comment before the Senate sitting, Udecott Chairman Noel Garcia told Newsday the instruction to change the date of the opening came from the Ministry of National Security.

“I did not reschedule the opening. The directive came from the Ministry of National Security. It would be out of place for me to speculate why.”

However, contacted again for clarification after Hinds’s statement in the Senate, Garcia said, “There were a number of logistical issues surrounding the event such as catering issues.

“To put it simply and after careful consideration, Udecott agreed to recommend that we reschedule the event.

“I don’t want to contradict myself because I know the question would be addressed in Senate, and I do not think it would have been good protocol for me to speak before the minister.”

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds. – File photo

The postponement of the fire station’s opening came after earlier controversies over whether there was enough firefighting equipment at the new station.

The day before the scheduled opening, on April 22, Hinds, in the Senate, dismissed claims that the station lacked essential equipment.

Hinds said, “When persons, especially agents, officials of the State, go out into the public domain and issue reckless, unfounded, and therefore irresponsible comments. When they appear to derive warped pleasure from spreading bad tidings, rumour-mongering, it traumatises the society.”

Despite Hinds’ assurances, concerns over equipment shortages persist among firefighters.

Contacted for a response on Tuesday, Fire Service Association president Keone Guy said, “The Point Fortin Fire Station lacks essential equipment, relying on Heritage appliances for all responses and utilising a Heritage ambulance due to the absence of a dedicated TT Fire Service ambulance.

“Additionally, there are no breathing apparatus sets, hydraulic rescue equipment (jaws of life), ladders, or portable pumps available.”

The government faced criticism in March 2020 after the opening of the $71 million Penal station which was not properly equipped.

Members of the Opposition, including MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, have criticised the government’s handling of the issue emphasising the potential risks to both firefighters and the public.

“The fire service has never been more ill-equipped,” Moonilal said. “Citizens are perishing in major blazes while the Minister of National Security continues to preside over an inadequate fire service whose only response is that ‘equipment will arrive soon.’”

Newsday’s calls to Hinds on April 23 went unanswered.