Point Fortin Fire Station to open without key equipment

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The new Point Fortin Fire Station at Techier Main Road to be opened on April 23. – Narissa Fraser

THE Point Fortin Fire Station, set to open on April 23, cost taxpayers $37.4 million but lacks essential firefighting equipment.

The president of the Fire Service Association, Keone Guy, raised the issue during an interview with Newsday on April 19.

“Ensuring firefighters are adequately equipped to carry out their duties effectively and safely is pivotal to ensure they can meet their required mandate in offering fire protection and rescue services,” he said.

The urgency of addressing equipment shortages was raised following recent incidents in South Trinidad.

On Easter Monday, an officer from the Siparia Fire Station collapsed owing to smoke inhalation while responding to a fire at Zion Hill, Penal. Five of his co-workers had to be treated at the San Fernando General Hospital.

Following the incident, acting Fire Sub Officer Patrick Dick, who was the supervisor of the responding crew, expressed his reluctance to risk his officers’ lives owing to equipment shortages.

“The next fire call I go on and we are once more put into a position where we do not have these necessary instruments, John Public is going to die,” he said on April 3.

Dick’s concerns were echoed by Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, who raised the impact of inadequate equipment on communities saying, “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’”.

Families in Penal, Barrackpore and nearby areas lost their homes to fires owing to the government’s failure to equip stations adequately, he said.

The lack of breathing equipment and other personal protective gear has been an ongoing issue.

In March 2020 government was criticised after the opening of the $71 m Penal Station which was not properly equipped.

“The last time we could safely say we had enough equipment was when TT hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2009,” Guy said.

Moonilal has called on National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds to ensure proper equipment is provided for firefighters.

Moonilal urged that money from “non-essential measures” like government officials’ “unnecessary international travel” be reallocated to much-needed safety equipment.

Newsday’s calls to the Minister of National Security for comment on an update of equipment purchased for the fire service went unanswered.