Regent Street saw yet another blaze incinerate businesses and as per media reports, an unprepared Fire Department arriving on the scene late as usual.
After the great fire of 1945, it’s incredible that Guyana still deals with fire safety issues. Given the many wooden building around town, in early 2010, Guyana Fire Service and the Home Ministry, had already declared some buildings, fire hazards.
But the issues that plague the safety of ordinary citizens are many. It appears that of all the fires in Guyana in 2011, 12% were set by arsonists, 16% by children left unattended at home playing with hazardous inflammable materials and the rest many were of electrical origin. One important contributor has been the stealing of electricity which results in temporary and hazardous ‘makeshift’ electrical connections. To compound that, when the Fire trucks do arrive on the scene, they might have arrived there without water or the water hydrants may not function, so they may have to rush to get water from the trenches, perhaps with buckets in tow, or as it sometimes happens, they may have just fallen into a trench.
During the fire safety week in 2011, it was noted that 90 buildings were destroyed, while twenty nine 29 others were severely damaged, eight lives were lost and 681 persons left homeless. It was also noted that makeshift housing in shanties and squatter settlements can pose a serious fire threat to residents.
The need of the hour is increased awareness and a better equipped Guyana Fire Service. ( It must be noted however that during 2010, a trailer pump and hose-layer were added to the fleet of fire fighting vehicles of the Fire Service and in 2010, The French Fire service handed a lot of ‘rescue equipment’ to the Guyana Fire Service.)