The Santa Cruz Fire Station in St. Elizabeth has received a new skid unit, which will enable firefighters to better respond to bush fires in sections of the parish.
The unit, mounted on a pickup truck and equipped with a manual reel, a pump and a 125-gallon water tank, was handed over on Wednesday (December 9) by Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Stewart Beckford.
It was procured through a partnership with the Meteorological Service of Jamaica (Met Office), with funding from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Speaking at the handover ceremony, held on the grounds of the Santa Cruz Fire Station, Commissioner Beckford said the unit will allow firefighters to quickly respond to and extinguish bush fires in the early stages.
“The skid unit can be easily loaded on to the back of a pickup and be driven to a location in quick time. It will move a lot quicker than the big unit, so it is also a rapid response unit, so to speak,” he said.
Mr. Beckford said it will help to mitigate the economic fallout that is likely to result from fires, particularly on farmlands.
“St. Elizabeth was specifically identified, because it is the policy of the Government to develop agriculture on a level where our food security, over time, can be secured, and St. Elizabeth is the parish that is leading in that regard,” the Commissioner noted.
Mr. Beckford reported that up to October 31 this year, approximately 808 fire calls were received for the parish of St. Elizabeth, 364 of which were bush fires, with 44 occurring on farm lands.
“While there are other divisions, such as St. Catherine, which are a little bigger than St. Elizabeth, and while they may have a bigger call count as it relates to bush fires, we believe, based on our analysis, that the impact on farmers and the lands that burn in St Elizabeth are far greater than what we would see in St Catherine. [Therefore] the decision was taken by the management of the fire brigade, in discussion with the Met Office, to place the first skid unit in this division,” he explained.
Mr. Beckford implored the firefighters “to put it to full use, take care of it and make sure that it has the kind of impact that we are hoping it will have in terms of mitigating the incidents of bush fires”.
For his part, Mayor of Black River, Councillor Derrick Sangster, said the skid unit will prove helpful to the farming community by improving the response time to bush fires in the parish.
“I want to thank the fire service for bringing this equipment here to make life a lot easier and to give the fire service the ability to better respond to these fires,” he said.