Alberttown blaze… Nearby fire station not a capable “standalone” responder – Fire Chief
Stern action threatened by Fire Chief Marlon Gentle into the reported inaction of firemen of the Alberttown Fire Station who reportedly failed to tackle a fire that erupted and destroyed a house a few meters away, may not be warranted.
Initial reports following the fire which occurred in the wee hours of July 6, 2015 suggest that since the driver that should have been on duty at the time of the fire had reported sick there was no one to operate a fire tender. However, this publication was reliably informed that sometime after the driver reported sick, which was in fact the evening before the fire, the lone working fire tender was removed from the Alberttown location and parked at the Central Fire Station at Stabroek, Georgetown.
Another fire tender parked in the compound of the Fire Station at the time of the fire was not operational, this publication was told.
Moreover, a source close to the operation of the Fire Service informed that essentially, the Fire Station was closed, a state of affairs that has occurred on previous occasions.
The reliable source disclosed that while a decision to halt the operations of any Fire Station is made by Fire Chief Marlon Gentle, in this case, another senior officer had reportedly made the decision.
The Fire Station’s non-response to the fire has reportedly resulted in a “blame shifting” state of affairs among senior officers within the Fire Service.
The source is adamant that the administrators of the Fire Service had more than enough time to post another driver at the Alberttown Fire Station to ensure its capable operation.
According to the source too, the Fire Station in question is one that is not treated as a significant arm of the Fire Service in spite of its stated mandate to serve as the first responder to fires in the areas of Alberttown and Queenstown, and as back-up responder to areas including: Campbellville, Sophia and as far as Melanie on the East Coast of Demerara. “If another location is short of a driver they would close Alberttown and make up staff. For example, if Campbellville needs a driver the (Alberttown) driver would have to go there,” the source informed.
The Alberttown Fire Station is usually manned by a leading fireman who is supported by three other firemen.
Fire Chief Gentle in responding to questions about the operational capability of the Fire Station at the time of the fire, yesterday admitted that a fire tender parked in the compound of the fire station was inoperable. “It was down for the want of spares,” he said as he also confirmed that the only working tender was relocated to the Central Fire Station.
Another interesting admission by Gentle was that the Alberttown Fire Station as a “standalone” response would not have been able to effectively tackle the fire on its own. “This is obviously what happened because the other station had to back it up,” asserted Gentle.
He nevertheless noted that the firemen on duty at the Fire Station were able to do what they could after becoming aware of the fire that was already in raging progress.
“The men did what they could… they ensured that the children were out (of) the house. The Unit that responded took five minutes to get there and when the guys (at Alberttown) saw the fire the roof was already caving… the people in there were lucky they are alive,” said Gentle of the severity of the fire when the nearby ranks were alerted. Reports are that at least two occupants of the now destroyed house were at home at the time of the fire.
Owner of the destroyed property, Rafeek Khan, and his family have called for a thorough investigation into the fiery incident.