It is disturbing to an undescribable degree that we have learnt of an accident involving two (2) fire officers who responded to a fire on Observatory Street in Port of Spain in the early hours of this morning.
After consulting with the fire officers, we understand that these two officers suffered extensive damage after the hydraulic platform / skylift, suffered a mechanical failure while these officers were in the basket fighting the blaze.
In plain talk, this lift was procured specifically for the purpose of fighting fires. If such a lift fails, it begs us to wonder as to the reasons for such.
Is it that the lift was not being properly maintained and inspected?
We also understand that reportedly forty (40) officers from both the Wrightson Road and Belmont Fire Stations responded to this fire, while there were only 2 sets of breathing apparatus available. This led to a substantial number of officers suffering exposure to severe smoke inhalation.
Why were there only 2 sets of breathing apparatus available?
The injury of these 2 officers have brought the number of officers hurt on the job for the year to nine (9) officers. It is reported that six (6) officers were recently injured as a result of responding to another fire, using another tender which our sources revealed was defective and not roadworthy.
It is also hideously uncaring that this administration has put nothing in place for the healthcare of fire officers injured in a fire, as evidenced by recent developments which saw fire officers being injured while fighting fires yet forced to line up at public hospitals for emergency treatment like everyone else.
It is clear that Prime Minister Keith Rowley and Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds have abandoned fire officers across the country. Throughout the whole of 2023, the nation was inundated with numerous instances of insufficient equipment and resources and countless unfulfilled promises by the Fitzgerald Hinds, who remains as unresponsive as a big stone to the plight of our officers.
The state of affairs surrounding the fire services has never been as catastrophic as it is currently under Rowley and Hinds. Fire officers are being asked to put their lives and health on the line with no support or protection from this PNM administration.
I am calling on the Minister of Labour to advise whether the Occupational Health and Safety Agency, as mandated by Section 46 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, has initiated an investigation into this workplace accident.
A United National Congress government will waste no time in ensuring that the resources needed by the Fire Service will be expeditiously provided, and that a more aggressive maintenance programme for firefighting machinery will be put into place.
Fitzgerald Hinds has exhibited absolutely no concern or regard for or interest in the safety of fire officers in Trinidad and Tobago, and is obviously prepared to let our fire service itself burn to the ground.