President of the Fire Service Association, Leo Ramkissoon, wants the Government to establish an Inter-Ministerial Committee to fast-track the procurement of critical equipment needed to outfit fire stations.
He said the critical shortages were impacting the lives of citizens and fire officers alike.
Just last week, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds claimed all fire stations were outfitted with breathing apparatus, but this has been disputed by firefighters as well as the association.
However, reports later revealed that multiple stations in the North Eastern Division, including Chaguaramas, Woodbrook, Belmont, Morvant and Santa Cruz, had no breathing apparatus sets. These stations were also devoid of station face masks and personal face masks.
Ramkissoon said it was time for the Government to appoint an Inter-Ministerial Committee to oversee what he called the crisis in the Fire Service and procure the much-needed equipment and fire appliances.
“Every month from July, August, September and October people have died and we hope the State at some point, will recognise the importance of a well-outfitted Fire Service,” Ramkissoon said.
He added, “It’s not only the loss of life, its millions of dollars in property. The Fire Association needs an Inter-Ministerial Committee to be set up now so we can break through all the bureaucracy and expedite the process.”
He said the last set of water tenders (fire trucks) to be purchased was in 2017. However, he said between 2017 to April 2023, no further equipment was brought in to address woeful shortages.
Responding to comments from Hodge that equipment was taking a long time to clear at the port, Ramkisson said, “I am dissatisfied, appalled and angry. We as fire officers are being placed at risk while these reports on important appliances and equipment continue to reflect inaccuracies whilst providing no relief at all. We need those in higher authority to tell us when this will be rectified.”
Hodge told Guardian Media that the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Committee was a good idea.
“I would support an Inter-Ministerial Committee because of the necessity and the desired need that the Fire Service has currently,” Hodge said.
He lamented the length of time it was taking to clear equipment at the port.
“The equipment is just sitting there and we need to conduct the repairs to get the appliances back out and into the stations that they are required to be in,” Hodge said.
Asked why it was taking so long to clear, Hodge said, “The hold up rests on the shoulders of members of the Port Authority and Customs Division. The Fire Service has no say over that.”
Asked how soon the appliances will be fixed, Hodge said, “Given the parts, in two to three weeks we can start churning out the appliances for those stations that are in need.”
He said the 225 pieces of breathing apparatus should be here in eight to 12 weeks, noting that the tendering process had already been cleared.