Fire Stations across the nation lack
FIREMEN ACROSS THE island are quietly
waiting for a fire to begin not to
show their fire-fighting capabilities, but
to reinforce their point that they are without
"We are like children without parents
just some orphans," said District Officer
B. Richards of the Rollington Town Fire
When THE STAR visited the station
recently the driveway was empty and the
news team asked if the truck had responded
to a call. We were told, however, that they
did not have a truck, and have been without
one for several months.
If a call is made to the station for help,
the station has to call the York Park Fire
Brigade to respond. But Rollington Town
isn't the only station without a truck.
In St Elizabeth, where there were recently
a number of bush fires, there are at least
two stations, Santa Cruz and Junction, without
The problems of the fire department do
not end there however. Firefighters islandwide
are also affected by the lack of other basic
equipment and the poor state of the stations.
At the Rollington Town station Richards
says their shutter which should secure the
premises, is currently up and cannot be
closed. Included in the plethora of complaints,
he said they are without the basic equipment,
such as their necessary breathing apparatus
and protective gear. They are even without
a chainsaw, he said.
When THE STAR visited a number of
other fire houses across the island, their
complaints were of the same kind
they were without their basic, yet necessary
As if on cue, when THE STAR team
popped in at the Half-Way Tree Fire Station,
an emergency call came in. The men of course
hurriedly put on their clothes, opened the
gates, and ran to the truck each
man poised in their rescue positions. Minutes
later they were seen coming off the truck,
taking their uniforms off, and closing the
gates their truck could not start.
The Acting Assistant Superintendent, Denies
Lyon, said the lack of equipment, has left
them struggling. "That truck is a truck
that was donated to us last week, and look
at it. You saw for yourself, it works when
it wants to." He also said their oxygen
tanks were full, "however if there was to
be a fire like the one that happened at
King's Plaza, then the oxygen that we have
In the fire which occurred in January at
King's Plaza in Half-Way-Tree, the firemen
complained that they were unable to adequately
fight the fire because they did not have
sufficient oxygen tanks to enter the building.
In an interview done for THE STAR
after the fire he said, "It wasn't the lack
of effort, but lack of equipment. The men
and the women here are committed, but they
are just not supplied with the equipment."
Superintendent Lyon said, "There is one
crucial piece of equipment that every fire
station should have, and that is the jaws
of life, but there is only one in the Corporate
Area and it is at the York Park Fire Station."
Lyon explained that the 'jaws of life' is
the equipment used to rescue people who
are trapped in their vehicles during an
Senior Superintendent Raymond Spencer,
the head of Operations in Area 1, which
includes Kingston and St. Andrew and St.
Thomas, told THE STAR, "We are short
of everything necessary to discharge our
functions. There is a lack of breathing
apparatus, and the necessary equipment to
evict people. Things such as protective
equipment, fire boots, gloves, alert signalling
system in case we are lost or in danger.
There are also not enough helmets and even
when we have those we don't have any hoods
to protect our necks."
But, Superintendent Spencer says it's the
unreliability of their fire units that is
his main concern. "If you patch it up today,
by tomorrow it is down. Fire trucks are
not made and put down in a showroom like
cars. We will not be able to deliver the
service that we are here to deliver if every
third of the way the trucks break down."
"Take for example, the Fire Boat Station,
which is along the Kingston Waterfront,
it has been out of service for a number
of months. Now, if something should happen
the entire waterfront is without coverage."
When THE STAR visited the Fire Boat
Station, the representative said they are
currently without a boat, thus unable to
respond to any fire that should arise. He
said the boat was repaired several times
last year, then it went out of commission
He said because they are responsible for
the Harbour line - from the Norman Manley
International Airport to Jamaica Customs
it was extremely difficult to do
anything without a boat. "Thank God that
they practise safety in Industrial places."
He also said that the men who had been
stationed there have been moved to other
fire stations such as York Park, because
their station is currently "off action."
Those stationed at the Trench Town Fire
Station sang the same unpleasant tune on
THE STAR's visit. Apart from the
fact that they are currently using a truck
that was donated to them 20 years ago, and
rarely works, the representative said.
"We don't have enough breathing apparatus,
hydraulic cutters, or Jaws of Life as some
people call it, proper fire fighting gear,
and flashlights. Most of the time when we
go on an accident scene, we are just spectators.
So what we are encouraging people to do
is teach their children about fire safety,
because if a fire starts at your house -
well, boy, you are having a bad day."
Senior Deputy Superintendent Dave McLaughlin,
the St. Elizabeth Division Head, told THE
STAR that their current problem of only
having one unit for the division is proving
to be problematic as proven in the recent
"Originally we had three units one
from the Junction, Santa Cruz and from Black
River, but currently, the ones from Junction
and Santa Cruz are not working. The one
in Junction stopped working over the weekend,
and the one in Santa Cruz went down on January
He said their main concern was the state
of the vehicles. "Right now, though the
Black River unit is the only one in operation,
it is currently leaking. The break down
of these units has a lot to do with the
Superintendent McLaughlin said the last
time they received fire trucks, was 10 years
ago. "They were used trucks out of Japan,
so I don't know if those would qualify as
new." He said, the fires were "putting a
strain on the brigade and endangering other
people's cultivation and most of them are
just recovering from Ivan."
Like a relentless echo, he also said they
were without adequate breathing apparatus
and a jaws of life. "We had one jaws of
life in St. Elizabeth, but it is currently
defective and has been for some time."
The Ministry of Local Government, Community
Development and Sport, in a response sent
to THE STAR about the Brigade's current
plight stated that, "The Ministry is cognisant
of the state of the Jamaica Fire Service
and is working assiduously with the Ministry
of Finance in seeking to assist the service."
They said the Ministry's latest initiatives
include, a twenty million dollar donation,
given in two portions of ten million dollars,
($10M) which "was disbursed in October/November
2004 to assist with uniforms and protective
gears, while the sum of nine million dollars,
is earmarked for repairs to the fleet of
vehicles." They also said that; "the Ministry
with the approval of the National Contracts
Commission has put to tender bids for the
procurement of approximately 40 vehicles."