Fire Service admits to lapses in fighting West Berbice fire, denies fire tenders had no water

Last Updated on Thursday, 4 July 2024, 23:02 by Writer

The Guyana Fire Service (GFS) on Thursday admitted that leaking hoses were used to fight the Bush Lot, West Coast Berbice fire on Monday, June 1, 2024 and that it failed to inspect hydrants as one of their valves was buried and could not have been found.

“The complaints about hoses with perforations and delays in accessing an open water source are taken seriously. These issues somewhat hindered our ability to effectively contain the blaze and protect the businesses and properties impacted,” the GFS said in a statement.

The GFS said it was reviewing thoroughly its engagement, equipment, and operational protocols to ensure such issues do not recur. That review, the GFS said, includes continuous repair of damaged hoses, procurement of new hoses and other critical firefighting equipment, as well as enhanced training for our personnel.

“While there are two fire hydrants in the area, only one was accessible due to earth blockage of the underground valves. It is the duty of the Guyana Fire Service to inspect and ensure the operability of fire hydrants, and we accept full responsibility for the inaccessible hydrant,” the Fire Service said in a rare public admission of its lapses in firefighting.

The Fire Service, however, denied that any of the three fire tenders responded to the fire without water. “We affirm that all three responding tenders had water in their tanks,” the Service said. The GFS said its firefighting was hampered by a power outage in the area at the time of the fire, which resulted in insufficient water pressure, further affecting the water supply and overall operation.

The GFS also refuted claims that the fire tenders arrived late at the scene. The report was received at 18:03 hours, and the first tender (WT#90 from Onverwagt) arrived at 18:10 hours. The second tender (WT#74 from New Amsterdam) arrived at 19:01 hours, and the third tender (WT#106 from Mahaica) arrived at 19:21 hours, said the fire service.

Due to the magnitude of the fire, upon arrival, the GFS said firefighters opted to access a nearby open water source to facilitate continuous firefighting. A relay system was set up between the tenders using light pumps, which accessed water from a nearby trench.

The GFS said three water tenders and an ambulance, along with sixteen firefighters and three emergency medical technicians (EMS) were engaged in the firefighting operation and response.

Despite the arduous nature of the task, the GFS said its team successfully managed to contain and extinguish the blaze, limiting the destruction to three buildings and preventing a potentially catastrophic spread.

One civilian and one fire personnel were transported to the Fort Wellington Regional Hospital by GFS EMS personnel for treatment of fainting and lower back pain, the Service added.

The GFS again called on Guyanese to equip their homes and businesses with smoke detectors, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire extinguishing balls and to consider fire insurance.