GFS Senior Officers’ Conference: Training firefighters to use modern technology paramount to oil & gas sector – Min Benn

– 22% reduction in fires for 2021 recorded
– 93 % of 10-point strategic plan for 2021 accomplished

The Guyana Fire Service (GFS) is reporting a 22 per cent reduction in fires and Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn has attributed this accomplishment to the Fire Service’s “re-energised” leadership.

Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, along with Permanent Secretary to the ministry Mae Toussaint Jr Thomas, Commissioner of Police (ag) Clifton Hicken, Director of Prisons (ag) Nicklon Elliot, Chief Fire Officer Gregory Wickham, and Head of CANU James Singh pose for a photo outside the Police Officers’ Training Centre, Eve Leary Georgetown

He made this revelation while addressing the GFS Senior Officers’ Conference which is being held under the theme: ‘Strengthening our capabilities through training and the use of technology for a safe Guyana” at the Police Officers’ Training Centre, Eve Leary, Georgetown.
“Despite all the distress and the trauma we have had…some loss of life we have had a 22 per cent reduction in total fires over the past year in 2021. Not to say we have not had big challenges with respect to fires, many of the fires which we have had were maliciously set,” he said.

Prominent victim
Benn recalled that the “most prominent victim” of these fires was the Guyana Police Force (GPF) which lost four buildings. He particularly pointed to the massive fire that destroyed the Brickdam Police Station last October and the fires that destroyed two public schools. He said that the Fire Service has been meeting to programme the activities for the road ahead, adding that the question of the threat of fire, in terms of prevention, and the question of the assertiveness of the response and the alacrity with response is very important.
Even though a lot of buildings are going up with concrete blocks and other robust materials, he explained the fact remains that Georgetown and the rest of the country live in wooden houses, and aging flammable buildings. According to Benn, the GFS is expanding with the recognition that fires, some resulting in fatalities, occur in rural areas in the Indigenous communities.
To this end, he noted, “The efforts of the Guyana Fire Service, their mission, their engagement, their awareness, the training, the proper upkeep of the assets is so critical for our country. And of course, there is also the rescue mission which we have to develop on.”

Fairly happy
Nonetheless, he expressed that he is “fairly happy” with the performance of the Fire Service. Benn said he has observed a “re-energising” of the GFS under the leadership of Chief Fire Officer, Gregory Wickham.
But although this is the case, he said the Fire Service still relies a lot on the engagement of past Fire Chiefs and other past officers to execute its mandate. Benn revealed that the GFS has also recorded a massive increase in its emergency medical services “which is a very good thing in terms of protecting lives and properties”. He also thanked the Fire Service’s emergency medical services officers for the 24 babies they have delivered.

Paramount to government
Highlighting that the capital city has always been affected by massive fires, Benn recalled that the 1945 fire destroyed the entire commercial district. Then in the 1960, “when we had troubles among ourselves”, he reminded that commercial districts and individual homes were destroyed by fires. He noted that awareness and the response to issues relating to fire are paramount to the government.
Outlining the government’s efforts thus far, he said, “There has been the bringing in of new assets, looking at new approaches in respect of technology to fight fire and to avoid the loss of life and risks due to fire and properties. “We have been spending money, we have been bringing in new assets and we want to see them properly employed. We want to see our firefighters properly equipped…not simply for the persons who are affected by the fires but for the protection of the firefighters…,” Benn told the gathering.

Modern technology
“In re-energising, we have to have better contact with not only the homeowners in terms of fire prevention but also in terms of business people, persons who are involved in commerce. And, of course, the question is upon us, the response we have to make in respect of the oil and gas sector and the technology which are appropriate to fight fires related to oil and gas operations.”
In this regard, he noted that training for firefighters and other personnel has to be “stepped up” to advance to the level where we can use the appropriate technology to fight fires related to the new developments in oil and gas. With the firefighting units being the most expensive assets for all of the Joint Service, Benn said they require “solid and engaged asset management”.
He said that Guyana is lagging in the area of fire inspection of buildings, especially commercial ones, and promised that there will be an aggressive campaign in this regard. Minister Benn announced that the government will distribute 3,000 fireballs to citizens for their homes and businesses. “Fireballs and smoke detectors, we must give them out free,” the minister added.
Meanwhile, Chief Fire Officer (Ag), Gregory Wickham, highlighted that the GFS has completed 93 per cent of the ten-point strategic plan outlined for last year.
He said the Guyana Fire Service is committed to its mandate and will work assiduously to keep its flag flying high.
The CFO was proud to report the establishment of a Health and Safety Committee within the Service as well as the expansion of the Emergency Medical Services which has aided over three thousand citizens, including the delivery of more than twenty babies.
Since the government assumed office, it has made great efforts to modernise the Fire Service.
Recently, over 100 fire hydrants were serviced and replaced in Georgetown. Shortly, several fire hydrants will be installed in other regions. Already, over 20 per cent of works have been completed on the new $614M Fire Service Headquarters at Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown.