Gov’t made efforts to equip fire stations with tools before Madhia fire – CoI hears

Before the Mahdia fire occurred last May in Region Eight, the government through the Ministry of Home Affairs made sure the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) was equipped with the necessary firefighting tools.

This is according to the ministry’s former Permanent Secretary, Mae Toussaint Jr Thomas- Meerabux who testified on Tuesday before the ongoing Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI).

Meerabux, who was at the time working along with Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn, said she recalled him making numerous provisions to ensure all fire stations countrywide were always equipped with the tools they needed.

“I have witnessed many internal meetings where the Minister of Home Affairs has firsthand said that when we need something, we will get it. And he would get his documents so that he could proceed with supplementary or cabinet request to have these items,” Thomas-Meerabux explained.

Former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mae Toussaint Jr Thomas-Meerabux testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI)

She explained that if there was ever a delay in the shipment of certain equipment, the minister made certain that they were acquired through alternative sources so that they could always be in stock.

Once the equipment is sourced and distributed to the various stations, firefighters must wear and use the tools at any fire scene. If they do not adhere then disciplinary actions are taken.

“For the three years that I have been permanent secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, I can safely say that there was not a week that passed at a weekly joint service meeting where Minister Benn would have insisted on the need for each truck to be equipped with whether a hammer, a saw or the different tools of trade…to help battle any fire,” the former PS recounted.

According to her, Minister Benn made all efforts to put systems in place to represent his ministry when requesting additional funding from the Ministry of Finance and the cabinet, to purchase tools required by the fire service to effectively and efficiently battle any fire.