Acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Wayne Letang, has responded to criticism about the tardiness of the Fire Service’s response to a fire which occurred at Newtown on Sunday.
Reginald Burke, the owner of a dwelling house which was destroyed by the fire, expressed disappointment during an interview, about the length of time (about an hour, according to him) it took firefighters to get to the scene.
However, in response, Letang said that the fire service responded as soon as possible and arrived at the scene at approximately twenty minutes after receiving the first call which, according to him, is a reasonable amount of time.
He said the department’s only two fire trucks were already attending to a bush fire at a landfill in the vicinity of Roseau when the incident was reported.
He also noted that when the department received the first call from Newtown, it was reported as a bush fire but ten minutes later, another call came in revealing that some vehicles, as well as Burke’s property, were in flames.
“When we got the call, they were actually at another fire and we proceeded to have one person go to that fire, the one at Victoria Street,” Letang stated. “I wouldn’t say that we got there late because when the first call came at 2:30pm and we left the fire scene where we were, the first truck arrived at Victoria street just about 2:50pm,”
He continued, “The challenges that we have within this time is that we have a lot of bush fires so basically on a normal day within the last two weeks to a month you would pass at the Roseau fire station and you would hardly see the trucks there so yesterday was a typical example.”
Letang also addressed what he said is the bigger problem at hand -the burning of debris on the island- which he said is what caused the fire in Newtown.
It was reported that the bush fire started at a nearby beach. It then spread and destroyed eleven vehicles and Burke’s property which housed an auto mechanic workshop.
The Deputy Fire Chief said this is a situation the department faces constantly and asked people not to set unnecessary fires as it poses a strain on their resources.
“That was one of the good examples that fire spread quickly. We do not know exactly what time it started but from the time we were notified the fire was already on the property, so it’s a lesson to be learnt from that but we are still investigating,” he noted.
Letang expressed heartfelt sympathy on behalf of the Fire Service to Reginald Burke for his loss. He made it clear that the department holds no grudge regarding the accusations made and vowed to continue to work with him, moving forward.
“Persons who have lost property will always be a difficult thing for them and it can be a shock, so, it’s a matter of consoling them,” Letang remarked. “Generally, that would be the expression of persons who have lost and that’s why we give all our heart to that person and we would not want that to have happened.”