Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fire Service Ready For High Rise Blazes

The ability of the Barbados Fire Service to fight fires in high-rise buildings and deal with hazardous materials has been boosted.

Seventy members of the Service have graduated and are now qualified in those two areas after successfully completing a three week training programme in High-Rise Operation and Hazardous Material Management. The ceremony was held this evening at the Barbados Community College following a course of training that took place in conjunction with the United States Hillsborough Community College from January 3.

During the ceremony those graduating were given a timely reminder of the importance of training and their ability to do their job well by Chief Fire Officer Wilfred Marshall. In addition, he told his charges that it would be hard to achieve excellence without adequate, appropriate and timely training. “It is timely because Barbados is a developing nation in many areas. One that captures our attention at this time is the simple structured developments and in particular its building structures for both commercial and residential occupancies,” Marshall said.

He also noted that the training was important because buildings were being constructed higher and the materials used were no longer only the traditional types, something that posed many challenges. “The persons who own and occupy these facilities don’t expect excuses from the fire
officers when they are called in situations involving these structures; they expect results. This is the primary reason why forces of this nature have been organised with necessary tools to make both strategic and tactical decisions,” Marshall added.

Among the officials present at the ceremony was BCC Principal, Dr. Gladstone Best, who also delivered remarks and presented the certificates to the fire officers. (AA)


Friday, January 28, 2011

Firefighters Turn On The Heat

There was a confrontation between members of the Fire Service Association and acting Chief Fire Officer John Springle late yesterday, as firefighters attempted to evacuate a dilapidated fire sub-station building at Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando. The officers planned to operate from under a tent in the station’s front yard, but Springle thwarted their plans. Around 4 pm, they were seen washing down the yard and transferring their desks, chairs and bunk beds to under a shed where the fire appliances were parked.

Springle arrived around 4.10 pm with a team and demanded to know why the firefighters were removing the station’s property. Springle asked reporters who gave them permission to be on the station compound. Association president Charles Ramsaroop interjected saying the media was invited by the association and firefighters were no longer working from inside the dilapidated “asbestos-filled” building. Committee member Jason Bertrand explained that the station had no emergency exit. “The station’s staircase is missing,” he said, adding: “We have no rails...It is a hazard in there.”

Even worse, Bertrand said, the thick black smoke from the incinerator of the San Fernando General Hospital billowed downwind and affected the heath of fire officers. Springle, however, would hear none of it. He accused the association of failing to follow protocol, saying they had failed to inform acting Fire Station Officer Narace Rampersad of their action. Springle accused the association of being irresponsible, saying their action was uncalled for as their issues were being addressed. He said asbestos tests were conducted by the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri) last Wednesday and they were awaiting a response.

Saying the association had shown no patience or tolerance, Springle said: “We have spoken to the Mayor of San Fernando to find an alternative site to relocate. “We identified a site on Carib Street, but this was later found to be not adequate and a proposal was made to construct a prefabricated building to house the officers,” he said. He added that officers were acting as if nothing was being done to alleviate their concerns. He then instructed officers to remove the furniture from outside. They complied and returned to their base.

Association executive Ancel Lemessy, however, said Springle’s orders were illegal as firefighters had the right to refuse to work in an environment that is hazardous to their lives. He said the firefighters had exercised patience as they had been waiting to be relocated from the dilapidated building since 2003. Lemessy said in August last year, they raised the issues of asbestos and even offered to pay Cariri to do tests. He said, however, that nothing was done to alleviate concerns.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Christ Church Home Destroyed

A Christ Church family lost all of their possessions when a fire destroyed their two-bedroom wall and timber home earlier today.

Neither the owner of the house, Diana Nurse, her son Fabian Nurse nor brother James Nurse were at home at Balsdon Land, Simmons Land, Rendezvous at the time of the blaze which started around midday.

Two fire tenders, one from Worthing and the other from Headquarters in Probyn Street responded to the fire under the command of Acting Station Officer Neil Smithwick along with eight fire officers.


Monday, January 17, 2011

BMA Hoping For Fire Free Year

Executive Director of the Barbados Manufacturers' Association (BMA), Bobbi McKay, hopes that the manufacturing sector is spared from the firebug this year.

In a recent interview with the Barbados Advocate, she noted that while the current recession and efforts at recovery have been putting somewhat of a strain on the manufacturing sector – as has been the case with other sectors – they have been surviving. But, she said, one of the biggest problems that has been facing manufacturers in recent years has been fires and she is hopeful that they do not see it reach the extent to which it has on previous occasions.

McKay explained that the sector has been experiencing on average about five fires a year, which, she suggested, have been putting a serious dent in the sector’s ability to contribute at its full potential to the overall economy. She pointed out that the firebug is an issue that the manufacturing companies have been faced with time after time and if it persists, the sector could be facing even greater losses, especially given the ongoing economic crisis. The executive director stated that depending on the extent of the damage caused by a fire, a company that has been affected could be forced to close its doors, putting many persons on the breadline.

Making reference to some of the more damaging fires that affected manufacturers in the last few years, she maintained that every effort needed to be made to ensure that the incidence of these fires is drastically reduced. However, she maintained that it would require the buy-in of all stakeholders if they are to be successful. McKay added that companies needed to really embrace disaster preparedness, identifying any weaknesses that exist and also ensuring that their staff members are well trained. (JRT)


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bajan Fire Fighters' Network A Vital Tool

The Bajan Fire Fighters' Network continues to play an important role in disseminating information to the world via its social networks. In just over a year the online community has become a beacon for important and relevant information on breaking fire service news, major disasters and severe local weather.

The Network has also become an invaluable tool to the news media, firefighting community and other special interest groups. By using Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, YouTube, Ustream and Podomatic Podcast members of the Barbados Fire Service has found a resourceful method of sharing information on most of the interesting developments taking place in their profession.

Just look at some of the media and special interests groups following the information published by the Bajan Fire Fighters' Network; Jamaica Observer, FOX News (Boston), CNN iReport, Barbados Today, Seismic Research Unit (Trinidad), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA), International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF), Caribbean Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC), FIRE magazine, FirefighterNation and a few others.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fire Safety In City Still A Concern

The over 2 000 businesses in Bridgetown are taking the issue of fire safety seriously.

This was the view of the senior vice-president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCC&I) Lalu Vaswani, as he addressed the media during a presentation of awards to two outstanding business students at BCCI’s Brittons Hill, St Michael location.

“I think that all businesses understand the responsibility to their companies, to their staff and to the general public for protecting their businesses in all respect.

“And I think that the wake-up call we had recently in Tudor Street would have caused all sensible business persons to review even what they thought were good plans.... to see how they could make it better,” said Vaswani.

He also said that ongoing action by the Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) and the Government to encourage further lighting of Bridgetown at an economical cost was a positive step.

Vaswani said that this action attested to the fact that people were taking things seriously. Nevertheless, businesses should continue to take precaution, because “it is not something that you can rest; you have to constantly work at it”. (AH)


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fire Destroys Main Street Building

A fire of unknown origin early yesterday morning destroyed one of the oldest wooden buildings on Main Street, Georgetown. That building housed the Frandec Travel Service, LIAT Airlines Local, Dragon Tours and H&F Machinery Inc.

Kaieteur News was told that the fire started shortly after 01:00 hrs yesterday. Kathryn Eytle-McLean, the CEO of Frandec, said that she received a call some time after midnight informing her about the fire. The woman said that she immediately rushed down to Main Street only to see the decades-old building engulfed in flames.
The CEO said that she estimated her losses within the hundreds of millions. “We’ve lost computers and other office equipment, we also lost our records which a priceless.”

Further, Mrs. Eytle-McLean said that she was told that persons close by heard three loud explosions. “Persons in the area recalled hearing three explosions with the last one being the loudest….Soon after, flames were seen.” Frandec is one of the oldest travel agencies in Guyana, representing several international airlines.
Meanwhile, an official from LIAT yesterday said that the fire has not disrupted the airline operations.

It was explained that the fire merely damaged the equipment and records. An official statement from the company is expected later. Peter Fraser, Chairman of H & F Machinery, described the fire a “tremendous blow for his company”. Fraser said that the lower and middle flats of the building were late last year refurbished and most of the building was rewired. Chief Executive Officer for Dagron Tours, Ann Hamilton, told reporters that the entire database (records) for her company have been destroyed. “All the work is gone, my computers, my files. There is nowhere for me to go and work,” Hamilton said. The fire occurred just hours before Hamilton was due to meet with a number of tourists.

At the scene, Chief Fire Officer, Marlon Gentle, told reporters that the Guyana Fire Service received the call around 1:30 AM. He too said that there was a loud explosion and that the building was on fire. Fire fighters immediately rushed to the scene and quickly got the blaze under control. However, electricity was still being supplied to the area, which caused several fire fighters to receive electric shocks.
Yesterday morning the police cordoned off the scene while the fire service conducted their investigations. A few persons who live close by praised the fire service for their swift response. “Is a good thing they came quick because other buildings would have gone up in flames,” one man said.

Meanwhile, a source from the fire service has hinted the fire might have been the work of an arsonist. A truck owned by a fish processing company on Holmes Street opposite H&F, was damaged by the fire. The building is insured by the Guyana/Trinidad Mutual Insurance Company.


Be Careful!

The top official in the Barbados Fire Service is calling on Barbadians to be extra careful this year in an effort to reduce the number of fires to which the Service has had to respond in recent times.

Speaking with the Barbados Advocate yesterday morning, Chief Fire Officer Wilfred Marshall said they are hoping that more persons will take the fire prevention measures which the Service has been promoting to heart, because they were seeing too many fires which could have been easily avoided.

He noted that the last few years have been quite challenging for the Service with last year recording a large number of fires, particularly, grass fires. He revealed that up to January 6, the Service responded to some 23 fires across the island for the year, but he remained hopeful that the numbers would not reach those recorded for January 2010, which stood at approximately 452.

“I cannot say that it is quite the dry season as yet, but this is the time of year that we see a large number of grass and rubbish fires, but we are really wishing that there is not as high a response this year as there was last year and in previous years. So we are appealing to Barbadians to be careful overall,” he said.

Barbados recorded more than 2 500 fires in all last year, up from 1 990 recorded for 2009, with increases in the categories of private dwelling houses, commercial buildings, as well as grass and sugar cane fires among others.

Meanwhile, he said that it has been a smooth transition for the headquarters of the Barbados Fire Service to its temporary locations, while the anticipated repairs are conducted on the Probyn Street building over the next seven weeks.

Chief Marshall said that the Operations Section of Fire Service Headquarters has been working out of its temporarily home at the former Glendairy Prison in Station Hill since Sunday, January 9 and the Administrative Section began its work on the 5th Floor of the NIS Building on Fairchild Street yesterday morning. At the time he spoke to the Barbados Advocate, he said while the emergency 311 number was operational, they were still in the process of getting all the telephone lines working and expected to do so by the end of the day. (JRT)


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fire Service Headquarters Relocating

The Operations Section of Fire Service Headquarters on Probyn Street will be temporarily housed at the former Glendiary Prison, Station Hill, St. Michael, from Monday, January 10.

This relocation is to facilitate repairs being carried out on the Probyn Street building.

The Administrative Section at headquarters will be relocated to the 5th Floor of the NIS Building Fairchild Street, Bridgetown. The telephone numbers 426-3504/9 and emergency number 311 will remain the same. (BGIS)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

We extend our very Best Wishes for a Happy New Year to you and yours.

We wish you a Peaceful, Joyous, Prosperous and Healthy 2011.

Fortitudo, Pertinacia et Constantia"