GFS … re-tooling to provide a better service, save lives

GUYANA, GINA, Friday, February 17, 2017

The Guyana Fire Service (GFS) has been working overtime by modernising its facilities, and providing a better quality service in order to preserve lives.

Chief Fire Officer, Marlon Gentle

In 2015, the GFS received 2997 fire calls compared to 2441 in 2016 which represents a 19 per cent decrease in fire calls overall. In 2015 also, 145 buildings were destroyed by fire compared to 116 for 2016. Forty-four (44) buildings were severely damaged by fire in 2015 and 32 in 2016. Overall, there was a five percent decrease of buildings being destroyed by fire in 2016.

The Chief Fire Officer, Marlon Gentle in an interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA) said that the overall reduction can only be attributed to the prompt response of the GFS when called upon, and the expansion of the GFS in a number of regions.

The GFS in 2017, for the period January 1, to February 14, received a total of 152 fire calls as opposed to 389 for the corresponding period last year. This represents a 61 percent decrease in the number of calls the fire service received for fires.

However, there were 39 buildings involved in fires in 2017 over the period January 1, to February 14, when compared to only 32 involved in 2016 over the corresponding period.

Stamping out arson

One of the problems the GFS has faced over the years is dealing with arsonists. Arson accounted for most of the fires that occurred in 2015

One of the rehabilitated fire hydrants in Georgetown

and 2016, according to Gentle, and the trend is continuing.

Of the 39 buildings involved in fires thus far for this year, 12 were set by arsonists. Gentle noted that it is becoming a trend for persons to use fire to settle disputes, but stated that the GFS, in collaboration with the Guyana Police Force (GPF) will ensure the law is brought to bear on arsonists.

The Fire Chief stressed that “we would like to send a strong message that, so long as our investigations lead to that aspect or the aspect of persons deliberately setting fires to these buildings, maliciously which is a criminal offence, we would support law enforcement agencies in ensuring that these persons are brought to justice.”

Fire -fighting challenges

The lack of adequate and most importantly working fire hydrants have posed a number of challenges to the GFS and have been the causes for the loss of numerous lives. In 2016 however, the GFS in collaboration with the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) rehabilitated over 400 fire hydrants in Georgetown to create greater access to adequate water supply for the fire service during emergencies.

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan and former Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton (centre) along with members of the Guyana Fire Service, and Emergency Medical Technicians

Chief Executive Officer, (CEO), GWI, Dr. Richard Van West-Charles said that the rehabilitation process will continue throughout the year, as there are approximately 800 fire hydrants in the city. According to Van West- Charles, GWI will collaborate with the Ministry of Communities to also have fire hydrants placed in the new housing schemes.

Some areas where the GWI has rehabilitated fire hydrants include Church, Lamaha, Hadfield, Water, Regent and Robb Streets, Vlissengen Road, and Turkeyen, Agricola.

“Part of that planning process is to ensure that hydrants are in the system and that water is available in case of fire to protect the residents within the communities,” the GWI CEO noted.

The GFS has been able to use some to the rehabilitated fire hydrants which worked at an acceptable level in terms of the pressure of the water, the Fire Chief explained

Modernising

In November 2016, the GFS initiated a five-year Emergency Medical Service (EMS). This was established in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health. The EMS currently spans from Timehri, East Bank Demerara to Enmore, East Coast Demerara and is staffed with 24 trained Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and five ambulances. Since its establishment, the EMS has received over 600 calls for medical assistance.

Before the end of the year however, the Chief Fire Officer noted that the service is expected to be established throughout Region Four.

“It envisions that eight ambulances will be used to cover this area with staffing with the right complement of about 80 EMTs. Right now we

Three of the ambulances that are currently being used by the National Emergency Medical Services

are in the process of recruiting 36 EMTs to staff another four ambulances, two we have recently acquired and two that will be purchased this year,” Gentle explained.

Phase two is expected to start at the completion of phase one and will be rolled- out in Regions Three and Five.

The GFS will also be expanding its firefighting capacity as it will be establishing permanent structures in several hinterland communities. These include Lethem, Mahdia and Mabaruma.

“We also intend to do more outreaches in the hinterland areas because we already have some presence in Mabaruma, Port Kaituma, Mahdia, Kwakwani and Lethem. We intend to enhance those units into full-fledged units from the auxiliary units, and we also intend to commence operations in the two most popular Essequibo islands; Wakenaam and Leguan,” the Fire Chief revealed.

Rehabilitation and modernisation works will also be carried out on a number of fire stations. The aim according to the Fire Chief, is to equip the stations to be capable of handling both firefighting and EMS.

Additionally, the GFS conducted over 800 building inspections and fire safety outreaches. Over 35,000 people benefitted from the latter.

Gentle stated, “We believe that the message of fire safety has to go out there and that message has to also be absorbed by the persons who should now practice them.”

Training of fire officers is also ongoing in every region.

 

By: Isaiah Braithwaite

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