Fire Chief Marlon Gentle and Editor of BIG Smith News Watch Leroy Smith
There is an urgent need for firefighting infrastructure to be prioritized as new housing areas are being developed. Fire Chief Marlon Gentle wants firefighting to be given the same level of priority as potable water and electricity. That prioritisation would mean working fire hydrants with adequate water supply to complement the work of the fire officers.
Gentle made this pitch for prioritisation of fire fighting infrastructure during the recording of this week’s episode of Focus with Big Smith.
“As a matter of fact, we sit on a board with Town Planning Authorities (TPA) and we have made our contributions to what should be happening in those developments,” the Fire Chief explained, “even prior before construction, even prior before houses go down, when you do infrastructure, firefighting infrastructure ought to be given the same prominence as electricity and potable water” the Fire Chief said.
There has been an age-old blame game between the Guyana Water Inc. and the Guyana Fire Service as to which agency holds the responsibility to maintain hydrants. While this uncertainty looms, properties and lives continue to be lost. There have been suggestions that Neighbourhood Democratic Councils maintain hydrants with taxes paid by villages. Only some communities fall under NDCs while larger communities and areas fall under municipalities.
Over the years, non-working hydrants have proven to be a major challenge to firefighting operations, as firefighters turn up to dry and or non-working hydrants.
“It’s a situation that still needs a lot of work to bring it up back if I can give you a historical context too, at one stage the city of Georgetown had in-excess of fourteen 1400 fire hydrants working,” Gentle recalled, “sometime in the 80’s and I allude to you the fact of the fourteen to seventeen buildings that we lost, I think that was one of the most greatest fires we had in the modern history of Georgetown in terms of buildings being affected, the issues there that night was the failure of the fire hydrant system,” Fire Chief Gentle said
Contacted this afternoon for a comment on the issue of the hydrants in and around Georgetown, Minister with responsibility for Water, Susan Rodrigues told this publication that getting the hydrants working, is at the top of her agenda. The Minister pointed to provisions in the 2020 budget which could see hydrants for a number of communities including one of the largest ones, Diamond, located on the East Bank of Demerara.
“We are looking into this matter but there should also be maintenance of these hydrants and at the moment there is some amount of overlapping as to who stands responsibility, however in 2021 we will have a clearer strategy on installation nationally of hydrants and the issue of overlapping and responsibility is key to entire strategy,” the Minister noted.
The hydrants will need a sustainable water pressure to be able to work, says Fire Chief Gentle who explained that the hydrants need to be supplying a certain level of pressure to compliment the water pumps owned by the fire service. Low pressure can damage those pumps, he explained.
Join us on Sunday at 11:00hrs for our full interview with Fire Chief Marlon Gentle.