Letter: Newer firefighting techniques needed urgently in Guyana

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Dear Editor,

I wish to offer my sincerest sympathy to the owner of Sharon’s Mall, to the various store owners that operated within that building, and to the hundreds of employees who are now without a job and income.

It is a sad reality that we lost a building of this magnitude! Lawyers, proprietors, expatriates and local Guyanese operated out of that building. To think about the hundreds of families who are now without an income, and the worry they and their families must be going through at this time, is truly saddening.

In various press releases, I have noted that there were only twenty (20) firefighters tending to the fire at such an imposing building. This, to me, is total ludicrous! A fire of such gargantuan magnitude needed more personnel to tend to it.

This horrific incident has reinforced my conviction that Guyana needs to undergo a certain evolution, some of which are as follows:

1) We need to have modern buildings that are equipped with, or have with fire suppression systems installed. It must be a prerequisite for offices, commercial buildings and homes alike to have these systems installed.
2) There is, in Guyana, a great need for modern trucks with automatic ladders that can reach a minimum of 10 storeys, in order to prepare for the future.
3) The Fire Station needs to be moved from its current abode on Water Street. It is surrounded by markets, vendors, and bus parks, thus constricting the free flow of movement, which is critical in tending to a fire in a timely manner. I believe we are still locked in the colonial era, where that Water Street location has always been the base for the fire tenders in Georgetown. Incidentally, that area is called “Donkey City.” We have evolved, and we have to continue to evolve away from the old way of seeing and doing things in this country.

The Government needs to act in haste on the following:
1: Consider setting up the most modern firefighting system in this country. Nowadays, firefighters are forging through the flames with high-tech gear, such as thermal imaging cameras, to help them see where they are going, and drones to get an eye-in-the-sky perspective. Firefighting jet-packs are not just a fantasy for Dubai, they are the real deal. The water-propelled jet-packs were purchased by the United Arab Emirates in 2015 as a way to avoid traffic by turning to the sea. Now, we may not be able to afford this at the moment, but this is something we can consider in maybe 5 or 10 years’ time, as we progress as a nation.
2: Protecting our firefighters with the proper gear/apparatus that does not burn in fires.
3: Fire trucks need to be at strategic areas; example: the National Cultural Centre; near the Seawall; on Vlissengen Road; by Mercy Hospital, near to the American and Canadian embassies. We can also have one on the East Coast of Demerara, near the Shell Service Station or the University of Guyana Turkeyen Campus; and on the East Bank of Demerara, near the Demerara Harbour Bridge. Those are some of the strategic areas we can place fire stations for more effectiveness.
4: All homes and businesses must be compelled to carry fire extinguishers and sand buckets. Some people may say – and very well so – that they cannot afford to purchase fire instruments, but the Government can use money from the Norway Fund to help the poor acquire this critical equipment which is so needed in every home!
5:  A system must be set up in this country to have people trained to use a fire extinguisher. People should be educated on how to use a bucket of sand to put out a small fire. The bucket must be painted in RED. This education must be made available to the public via all social media platforms, and posted at all RDC and NDC buildings. Even the primary and secondary school-aged children should be taught how to put out a fire by using an extinguisher or a sand bucket. They can, in turn, train their parents. The relevant fire personnel can also make special effort to visit schools to offer training. In fact, one person per household should be trained as a firefighter in this country. Every business in both the public and private sectors should hold training seminars for its employees as a precautionary measure. Members of the Guyana Police Force can greatly assist in getting this proactive measure into speedy effect.

It is contemptible that, once again, fire trucks turn up at a burning building with damaged hoses, little or no water, and fire hydrants not in good working order. Where is the preventative maintenance mentality? How many more losses do we need? Are we really moving forward as a nation? We can do better. We must recover and triumph!

Sincerely,
Roshan Khan, Sr