Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chief Fire Officer: Not Enough Citizens Taking Fire Prevention Seriously

Chief Fire Officer Wilfred Marshall has expressed concern about the high number of structural fires taking place in Barbados, in particular private dwelling houses and commercial building fires. Marshall has noted that while some fires are due to carelessness on the part of homeowners and others have been deemed as “suspicious”, a number of these fires have been classified as “undetermined”.

Homeowners and people in general still have a role to play in fire prevention, he has noted. Speaking to the Barbados Advocate yesterday at Barbados Fire Service Headquarters located at Probyn Street Bridgetown, the Chief Fire Officer lamented about the number of fires of which the origin has not been determined. “I am always concerned that we have a high percentage of undetermined fires. We work closely with the police in terms of determining the cause of fires and so it is not only the Fire Service that is involved in determining the cause of a fire. We work closely with them as they bring a forensic approach and we also use our skills and expertise etc.,” he stated.

He however outlined the role citizens can play in fire prevention, as the Fire Service is not satisfied that Barbadians are doing their best to prevent incidents. “I am also concerned about electrical appliances and general electrical wiring. We go into some homes and we see people have frayed wiring and they are quite comfortable with it, but we know that from what we see, that broken wires can easily start a fire. So they need to pay attention to that,” Marshall said. “Also, burning refuse around the home. It’s a culture in Barbados where we try to get rid of our garbage by burning and the thing about fire is that we always think we are in charge of the fire, but I always say that fire has a mind of its own. When people are burning garbage, they light it and think it is under control and they just step back in to the house and then the next thing you see, it is spreading to a next neighbour’s property or is out of control,” he added.

Marshall also noted that citizens should pay attention in the kitchen when they are cooking. “Very frequently, people start to cook and they are very tired and they drop to sleep or they get distracted by the telephone of television or something, forgetting that they have something on the stove. We have seen instances of this. So these are little things that people need to pay attention to,” he also remarked.

Marshall is also advising homeowners to have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in their homes as safety measures. “Smoke detector alerting systems will let you know when there is fire in the home, so once you hear that, you can either get to a point of safety if it is too much for you, or if it is a small fire at the incipient stage, you can use a fire extinguisher and extinguish it. These are things that person can have in their homes to cut down on the amount of fires,” the Chief Fire Officer said. (RSM)

Source: www.barbadosadvocate.com

Fire Service Frowns On Open Burning

The Barbados Fire Service in no way condones indiscriminate burning, also known as open burning in communities across Barbados. In fact, Chief Fire Officer Wilfred Marshall believes that this is a cultural practice which should be stamped out.

Marshall shared his views with the Barbados Advocate on this matter this week. He noted that the Fire Service is presently working with a committee set up by Government, to explore whether legislation is needed to tackle the issue of indiscriminate burning in Barbados, as has been proposed to deal with smoking in public places. The smoking ban is set to come into effect this Friday, October 1st.

“Our responsibility is to make sure that if people do burn, that they burn in a safe environment. But we have a national responsibility to join with other civic organisations and right now, there is a committee set up under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, which is looking at legislation to deal with the burning of refuse. They are still in discussions as to how far they are going to go on it, but the Fire Service is represented on that committee and we will play our part,” Marshall assured.

The Chief Fire Officer noted that while the ideal would be to have persons refrain from lighting up in the open in communities, some recommendations should be made in the absence of legislation. “Until we can get persons to stop burning refuse, we as a Fire Safety organisation would say, if you are going to burn, burn in small heaps that you can control,” Marshall advised.

“We do not encourage you to burn. In fact, in recent times, we have had persons calling trying to get rid of rubbish and so on and we tell them find other ways to get rid of it, because the Ministry of Health and the environmentalist are coming down on this particular issue and we have a civic responsibility to join them. But if people still feel that they have to burn in the absence of legislation, they should do it in a way that they do not hurt themselves or other people’s properties,” Marshall said.

Source: www.barbadosadvocate.com

Risky Business

Source: news.barbadostoday.bb

Too Many Fires

Chief fire officer, Wilfred Marshall says the fire service in Barbados has been fully stretched this year.

According to Mr. Marshall there's been an increase in the number of blazes across the country.
Fires in all categories are up this year over the numbers recorded last year.

Chief Fire Officer, Wilfred Marshall gave the statistics during a church service at the Collymore Rock Nazarene Church to mark fire service week.

Mr. Marshall said there were 1990 fires in 2009, and to date 2284 this year, broken down like this. 19 commercial fires in 2009, and 20 up to September this year, 86 house fires in 2009, but 108 so far this year.

The Fire Chief says the service's Prevention and Community Relations Department has also been busy, having trained over 24 thousand nursery and primary school students over the last three years, in fire prevention.

He says they've also done training and other education drives at commercial and community organisations, recording close to one thousand people in those various initiatives.

But according to the Chief, the Fire Service needs the public's help in keeping Barbados safe. He's also encouraged businesses to help the fire service develop and implement community strategies that will make homes and business places fire safe.

Source: www.cbc.bb

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fire Service To Celebrate 55 Years

Come next week, this country's Fire Service will celebrate its 55th anniversary.

And to mark the occasion, the department will host several activities under the theme "Raising the Bar of Excellence through Service".

The week will begin with divine worship on Sunday, September 26, at the Church of the Nazarene, Collymore Rock, St. Michael, starting at 8:00 a.m.

There will also be a series of open days from Monday, September 27 to Friday, October 1, at all Fire Stations. These will commence at 10:00 a.m. and the public will have the opportunity to visit and tour the facilities.

Also on Monday, September 27, there will be a health & safety extravaganza at the headquarters, of the Barbados Fire Service Probyn Street, Bridgetown.

Visitors can get their cholesterol and blood pressure checked as well as know their HIV/AIDS status. Massages and pedicures will also be available, and tips on fire safety will be exhibited.

The following day, Tuesday, September 28, there will be an inter-station cook-off at the Probyn Street Station, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

A Twenty/20 Cricket and Football match will get top billing at a Sports and Fun day on Thursday, September 30 at the Passage Road grounds. During this encounter, firemen will tackle their counterparts at the Barbados Prison Service in football and do battle against the National Women's cricket team.

A parade and awards ceremony will take place at the Arch Hall Fire Station in St. Thomas on Friday, October 1 at 3:30 p.m.

The activities will culminate on Saturday, October 2, with a family-fun-fair, beginning at 11:30 a.m. at Fire Service headquarters, Probyn Street, Bridgetown. There will also be many attractions such as face painting, lucky dip, jumping tent and movie room. The public is invited. (BGIS/TB)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Chief: Firemen Hurt By Harsh Words

Firefighters did all that was humanly possible to save the lives of the six young women who perished in the Campus Trendz fire in Tudor Street, The City earlier this month.

Reeling under widespread public condemnation over the handling of the September 3 tragedy, Chief Fire Officer Wilfred Marshall said the attacks had damaged the morale of the Fire Department.

“There were fire officers who actually cried because they were on the scene working and they gave of their best. They felt very hurt when all these negative comments were coming at them as if no effort was made to reach the victims in the fire,” he told the WEEKEND NATION in an exclusive interview yesterday.

Marshall said some of his firefighters placed their own lives on the line, reaching as much as 25 feet to 30 feet within the raging inferno.

“The impression coming from members of the public that the firefighters didn’t make any effort to save [the victims] was far from the truth.”

Describing the blaze as one of the toughest he had experienced in his 35-year career, Marshall said, “We were fighting against a compact building, there wasn’t a window that we could have burst. Normally in other buildings you would see us burst windows or create openings to allow gases or smoke to come out, but there was no opportunity there,” he said.

The fire chief said their eventual entry at the back of the building took exceptionally long since it was a “soft-stone” wall which was difficult to penetrate.

He dismissed suggestions that the firemen should have gone through the roof.

“Once you go through the roof and create an opening you are sending the fire to the roof of the building,” he pointed out.

Source: www.nationnews.com

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chief: Firemen Receiving Verbal Threats

Some members of the public have been threatening fire officers to the point where they fear for their own safety at some fire scenes.

In a telephone interview yesterday, acting Chief Fire Officer Wilfred Marshall said there had been at least two reports of verbal abuse at fire scenes recently, adding that his officers needed to focus on the job at hand and not be distracted.

“Ever since [the fatal September 3 Tudor Street fire] there have been negative comments about us on call-in programmes.

on at least two occasions, in St Michael and Christ Church, we have had some hostile remarks made to officers as they responded to fires and some officers have been scared by some of those remarks.

“We understand the situation; we are trying to be professional and we are asking people to also be understanding to the circumstances we operate in. When we are called to a fire, we cannot be distracted and looking over our shoulder at people making threats. Let us focus on the mission, which is fighting the fire,” he said.

Marshall said they had reported those incidents to the police. He said they had no desire to antagonise the situation but reminded the public that a police escort was standard operating procedure when responding to a fire. (CA)

Source: www.nationnews.com

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Association Urges Training Scheme For Regional Firefighters

President of the Caribbean Association of Firefighters Charles Ramsaroop says the association would be approaching heads of departments regionally for firefighters to access advance training. In an interview yesterday, Ramsaroop, who is also president of the local Fire Service Association said: “There was a strategic plan for a memorandum of understanding where we can access training from other islands and from the T&T Fire Service. Some islands do not have that level of training and expertise.” The executive body of the association met last weekend at Cascadia Hotel and Conference Centre.

Representatives from Guyana, Dominica, Barbados, St Lucia, Martinique and Trinidad and Tobago attended. Ramsaroop said: “We want all the members to be able to access training techniques in fire-fighting, We will be approaching representatives in Martinique who has training facilities. We will be writing to the Barbados Fire Service to access two areas of training.” The association is expected to host its Goodwill Games on October 22 and 23.

Source: http://guardian.co.tt/news

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fire And Police Personnel Receive Training In Arson Investigations

Police and fire personnel now have a stronger foundation in their examination of fire and arson cases.

This comes as 21 participants from local and regional emergency agencies took part in a fire and arson investigations course last week at the Regional Police Training Centre at Paragon.

“From a local perspective, we within the Royal Barbados Police Force have not been very successful in our investigation of fires,” said Assistant Commissioner of Police Oral Williams, adding that this stemmed from a lack of skills and expertise in the investigation of such incidents.

“The lack of these skills has serious implications for a community. For one, when persons are able to intentionally set fires and are not identified and are not brought to justice, it engenders a confidence with the perpetrators and can act as a catalyst for repeated acts,” he stated on Friday evening during the closing ceremony.

He said fires often resulted in insurance companies having to make great payouts in loss to others, damage to adjacent properties, loss of employment and, at times, serious injury and death to persons.

“Whatever the outcome, it is a price we can ill-afford to pay in these trying economic times,” he said.

He remarked that in order for investigations into fires to be successful, there was the recognition that both fire and police personnel had to be able to effectively work together.

“The fire officers’ primary goal would be to rescue persons and extinguish the blaze. Police officers, on the other hand, come in on the back end to do the investigations, process the scene, collect evidence, have it analysed and present a case report where criminal intent exists.

“What the fireman does or does not do in his initial response can severely hamper the ability to complete a successful investigation,” he continued.

In addition, he stated that the joint training initiative would ensure that persons from both agencies were on the same page with regards to fire and arson investigations. (JMB)

Source: www.barbadosadvocate.com

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fire Kills 6 In Town

Six people perished last night in a blaze that could go down as one of Barbados’ worst human tragedies.

A fire believed to have started by two men who robbed the Campus Trendz store in Tudor Street, The City, engulfed the two-storey building along the busy shopping street, trapping the hapless victims within the inferno.

Confirmed dead is 18-year-old Shanna Griffith, an employee of the store who reportedly died in an ambulance en route to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Unconfirmed reports also indicated that five other females perished, including a toddler, other staff and customers.

A female supervisor also had to be treated on the scene for several cutlass wounds, believed to have been inflicted by one of the robbers. Up to press time, her condition was unknown.

According to police, the two robbers, in view of shocked customers, threw an incendiary device into Campus Trendz just before 7 p.m., after taking an undisclosed amount of cash.

An eyewitness told the SATURDAY SUN he was standing on the pavement just yards away from the store when a young man hurriedly dashed along the sidewalk. “Then a second fellah with something like a scarf over his face ran behind him and then I heard this big explosion.

“Within minutes I saw this big gush of smoke and the whole of the store was on fire. I have never seen anything like that,” he said. The eyewitness added that a few people who were outside rushed to assist, but the flames were fierce, and had “literally swallowed the doorway”.

It is believed that following the cutlass attack by the robbers and the subsequent explosion, the people inside Campus Trendz panicked and ran to the back of the building, trapping themselves in the process.

Over 41 firemen and six tenders fought the blaze which had threatened to extend to other buildings along Tudor Street. Family members and close friends had kept vigil along the smoke-filled street awaiting word on the fate of their loved ones.

At 10:40 p.m. when the flames had subsided, fire-fighters finally entered through a hole which was dug at the back of the building, where they found a badly-burnt Griffith huddled in the bathroom.

Griffith, 18, of Pile Bay, Spring Garden, St Michael, was rushed into an ambulance, but also died. By 11:22 p.m. when the last ambulance left there were confirmed reports that five bodies had been recovered.

Scores of onlookers converged on Tudor Street causing numerous problems for police, prompting police public relations officer Inspector David Welch to go live on radio appealing for better behaviour.

Source: www.nationnews.com

Tragic Blaze At Tudor Street Store


That was the situation last night in Bridgetown when at approximately 7:05 pm the first emergency respondents attended to a fire at Campus Trendz Boutique, Tudor Street, the scene of an unsuccessful robbery attempt.

Hundreds of curious onlookers gathered behind several barricades erected by officials on both ends of the street to witness the horrifying events which unfolded before their eyes.

As it became apparent that persons had been trapped inside the building and were injured, perhaps fatally, the mood turned sombre as grieving family members turned to emergency personnel for solace.

Up to press time, Inspector David Welch, Public Relations Officer for the Royal Barbados Police Force, confirmed that one injured female was taken away by ambulance and an additional five female bodies were confirmed to be inside of the building which had been consumed by thick, acrid smoke.

Welch indicated that all efforts were being made to search the remaining areas within the two-storey building to make sure all persons were accounted for so that forensic investigators could subsequently move in to conduct a thorough investigation of the crime scene.

One person, believed to be the manager of the clothing store, had earlier in the night been taken to the hospital for an injury to her leg.

Three of the bodies that had been found were thought to be employees and two customers, while authorities were “uncertain” about the identity of the remaining person.

Six Barbados Fire Service vehicles, Department of Emergency Management and Royal Barbados Police Force and Defence Force personnel responded to the fire which continued to burn late into the night. (EL/TL)

Source: www.barbadosadvocate.com

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fire Damages Hotel In The Gap

Investigations are continuing into a fire yesterday at a St Lawrence hotel complex still under construction. Fire officials responded to around 8:30 a.m. to a call at the hotel, owned by Ocean Two Ltd.

A fire officer told the media there was damage to a stove, windows and some boxes but the fire was contained within ten minutes, causing only moderate damage.

One worker said he was in one of the rooms when he saw people running and shouting: “Bring a bucket,” but had no idea what was going on.

Eight fire officers, under the command of Station Officer Ormond Fenty, responded to the fire, utilising a fire tender from Worthing and another tender as well as an aerial appliance from Probyn Street Headquarters.

Site foreman with contractors Shelby Construction, Trevor Lucas, said construction on the hotel began in February 2008. It employs more than 100 workers. (CA)

Source: www.nationnews.com