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August 28, 2012
Firefighter knocks department over lack of gear

A member of the Fire Department has told Searchlight about what he termed deplorable working conditions within that unit, a branch of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.{{more}}

“We have come to the point where we are crying out,” said the officer, who asked not to be identified.

“And it is time for somebody to do something,” he further said.

The officer told SEARCHLIGHT that the problems with the fire service include lack of equipment, understaffing, and bad treatment from the rest of the force.

“We have been treated as underdogs,” he said.

He said that despite the many requests from the staff at the fire service for the unit to be removed from the Police Force, the authorities have not responded.

The man said that training warranted some attention, since there are no designated training facilities.

There are occasional fire drills, but firefighters do not receive training in exercises that simulate a real fire situation.

The officer said that firefighters are not trained in basic first aid, but a few may have got the requisite training and certification on their own.

He said that he has been a member of the fire service for a major part of his career as a cop, but the only training he received was the reading that he has done on his own.

Understaffing is a major problem, according to the member of the fire service.

He told SEARCHLIGHT that sometimes as few as three constables would be required to respond to a fire.

“And when we go to the fires, the public have us as a laughing stock,” he explained.

Firefighters are often seen responding to fires without proper protective gear.

The hoses used in some of the fires around Kingstown have been leaky, spraying large quantities of water onto the streets.

The treatment of the officers within the fire service as regards promotion has also been a cause for concern, the firefighter told SEARCHLIGHT.

He said members of the fire service are usually overlooked for promotions.

Equipment is needed, but the officer also said that the conditions where the fire services are housed in Kingstown also need some attention.

The door of the refrigerator is half broken and does not work and he said that the area is infested with rats.

And equipment has been a constant issue for the fire service, he said, adding that apart from the basic equipment that had been handed over to the department by VINLEC, it is useless to have limited equipment for all the members of staff.

The fire tender in Kingstown holds 150 gallons of water, which has an adverse effect on firefighting in areas where there are no hydrants, he told SEARCHLIGHT.

“Sometimes people are afraid to talk for fear of repercussions,” the officer said, but added that the time had come for them to speak out.

“We should be able to call a spade a spade.”

But although he is unhappy with his working conditions, the officer said that he enjoys his job and is calling on the authorities to look into the complaints from the 50 or so member of the fire service.

“The better you treat me, I produce more,” he said.

Meanwhile, the fire service in recent times has come in for some criticism from the public.

At the fire which destroyed a section of the Kingstown Government School on August 9, parents and other onlookers said they were not happy with the efforts of the fire service.

Persons told Searchlight that the fire service was too slow in its response.

A fire truck at the scene had to return to downtown Kingstown to refill because the hydrant near the school was faulty. (DD)