Point Fortin Fire Station opens without key equipment

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The new Point Fortin Fire Station on Techier Main Road opens April 23.  -Narissa Fraser
The new Point Fortin Fire Station on Techier Main Road opens April 23. -Narissa Fraser

THE Point Fortin fire station, which was due to open on April 23, cost taxpayers $37.4 million but lacks vital firefighting equipment.

Fire Service Association President Keone Guy raised the issue during an interview with Newsday on April 19.

“Ensuring that firefighters are adequately equipped to carry out their duties effectively and safely is critical to ensuring they can fulfill their required mandate in providing fire protection and rescue services,” he said.

The urgency of addressing equipment shortages has increased following recent incidents in southern Trinidad.

On Easter Monday, an officer from Siparia Fire Station collapsed due to smoke inhalation while responding to a fire at Zion Hill, Penal. Five of his colleagues required treatment at San Fernando General Hospital.

Following the incident, Acting Fire Chief Petty Officer Patrick Dick, who was the supervisor of the responding crew, expressed his reluctance to risk the lives of his officers due to a shortage of equipment.

“The next fire call I make and we are once again put in a position where we don’t have these necessary tools, John Public will die,” he said on April 3.

Dick’s concerns were echoed by opposition member Dr. Roodal Moonilal, who raised the impact of inadequate equipment on communities, saying: “The fire service has never been so poorly equipped.”

Moonilal said civilians are “dying in major fires” while the National Security Minister “remains in charge of an inadequate fire brigade, whose only response is that ‘equipment will arrive soon’”.

Families in Penal, Barrackpore and nearby areas lost their homes to fires as the government failed to adequately equip stations, he said.

The lack of breathing apparatus and other personal protective equipment is an ongoing problem.

In March 2020, the government faced criticism after opening the $71 million criminal bureau, which was not properly equipped.

“The last time we could say with certainty that we had sufficient equipment was when TT hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2009,” Guy said.

Moonilal has called on National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds to ensure firefighters have the right equipment.

Moonilal urged that money from “non-essential measures” such as “unnecessary international travel” by government officials be reallocated towards much-needed security equipment.

Newsday’s calls to the Minister of National Security for comment on an update to equipment purchased for the fire brigade went unanswered.