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JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) is benefitting from improvements to infrastructure, equipment and personnel in order to more efficiently and effectively serve the public.
  • Commissioner at the JFB, Errol Mowatt, tells JIS News that the human capacity of the brigade is being boosted through the recruiting of additional firefighters.
  • The JFB also recently received a number of ambulances for its Emergency Management Services (EMS).

The Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) is benefitting from improvements to infrastructure, equipment and personnel in order to more efficiently and effectively serve the public.

Commissioner at the JFB, Errol Mowatt, tells JIS News that the human capacity of the brigade is being boosted through the recruiting of additional firefighters.

“In 2015, the brigade was short of about 300 firefighters, which meant that they worked twice as hard to deliver. Fortunately, 103 firefighters graduated in November of last year and another 100 are to be recruited,” he tells JIS News.

In addition, three new fire trucks valued at US$1.36 million have been added to the JFB fleet, and three new fire stations are to be constructed in Yallas, St. Thomas; Port Maria, St. Mary and Montego Bay, St. James.

The JFB also recently received a number of ambulances for its Emergency Management Services (EMS).

Commissioner Mowatt says that areas that need additional resources have been identified and these will be addressed in the year.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Colin Fagan, says the JFB is doing well and the Ministry will continue to improve the working conditions and provide the necessary tools for the firefighters, so that they can continue to serve the country.

He informs that in the last financial year, over 130 fire hydrants were rehabilitated, and this year, the work has already started to repair 208 more hydrants.

The Minister says that the objective is to restore at least 200 hydrants annually over the next five years.

In addition, the Ministry will continue to provide safety equipment and renovate and build fire stations.

“The brigade plays a vital role in the development of Jamaica through the protection of personal and national assets. The men and women of the brigade have always displayed a high level of professionalism and dedication to their job and their quality of service is admirable,” the State Minister says.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Mowatt says 2015 was a successful year for the brigade.

He says there was a decline in fire calls between January and September last year over the corresponding period in 2014.

The total number of calls to fire stations for the nine months was 14, 540, reflecting a reduction of 1, 033 over the 15, 573 recorded for the previous year.

The figures show a drop in genuine fire calls from 11, 848 to 11, 203; while the number of false alarm calls with good intentions fell significantly from 1, 483 to 362.

Commissioner Mowatt says there was also a decline in the number of bush fires from 7, 614 in 2014 to approximately 6, 267 in 2015.

Firefighter: Firefighters demonstrate the capabilities of one of three new fire units, which were handed over to the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), during a ceremony on February 4, at the York Park Fire Station, Orange Street, Kingston.
Firefighter: Firefighters demonstrate the capabilities of one of three new fire units, which were handed over to the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), during a ceremony on February 4, at the York Park Fire Station, Orange Street, Kingston.

He credits the reduction to measures being implemented to improve fire safety in communities, including the Community Bush Fire Management Education Programme.

The initiative, being undertaken through funding by the British High Commission, seeks to sensitise residents about safe ways to dispose of garbage or clear land other than by lighting fires.

Commissioner Mowatt says the brigade also offers fire safety classes to communities and this allows the firefighters to build lasting relationship with communities, while reducing the occurrence of bush fires.

He points out the JFB also designs and implements the fire safety programmes that will encourage maximum community participation.

Commissioner Mowatt notes, however, that “much more work” needs to be done in relation to bush fires.

In addition to continuing safety and education programmes, he tells JIS News that the JFB will be pushing for amendments to the Country Fires Act (CFA) to increase the penalty for the illicit lighting of fires.

The current fine is $2,000 or three months at hard labour, which Commissioner notes is not enough of a deterrent.

Commissioner Mowatt tells JIS News that the JFB had to deal with a number of challenging incidents in 2015, and is crediting the hard work and dedication of the firefighters in responding to these events and ensuring the safety and well-being of citizens.

He notes that the fire at the Riverton disposal site was a “true test of the mettle of the brigade” and “firefighters worked for long hours under extreme circumstances and saw the crisis through from beginning to end.”

He says the men and women of the JFB also went above and beyond the call of duty to minimize the damage and ensure the safety of residents during the Mavis Bank bush fire in the summer of 2015, which destroyed a number of farms.

As he reflects on the success of his team in 2015, Commissioner Mowatt is appealing to the public to continue to support the work of the JFB.

“The job is a vulnerable one. The firefighters work in hazardous conditions and public scrutiny, lack of support and lack of compassion from citizens can make it harder for the firefighters,” he points out.

He is reminding the public that the brigade, through its EMS, responds to most of the accident and emergency calls in the country such as car crashes, cardiovascular emergencies, acute respiratory distresses, severe bleeding, obstetrics and any other medical emergencies.

The brigade also responds to chemical spills, hazardous materials, flooding, water rescue and general rescue missions.

Commissioner Mowatt says the brigade also offers a range of first responder services such as basic burn and wound care, blood pressure check, blood sugar tests, general first aid and advice on minor trauma incidents.

The Commissioner thanks the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development for its support and quick response to the needs of the brigade.