Chief Fire Officer Errol Maynard said six months after the fire which destroyed four business in Bolton Lane, St Michael, the Fire Service is still working on ensuring that these businesses have two-door access.
“That is a work in progress. We are still working with a lot of business owners to ensure that they get compliant. In the Bridgetown area, there is still an issue with the one door business. It is difficult in most cases to put an additional door because there is not the space or the room for it. What we have done is to work with them so they can make arrangements with their neighbour so they can have a door from their premises to their neighbour’s premises just in case there is a fire they may pass through that section and exit safely,” he said.
Maynard said he has asked the business owners in Bolton Lane to install early warning devices such as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in their establishments.
“The alarm if anything happens will inform persons early and they will have the time to escape. The most important thing is to have the early warning signs irrespective of what warning sign it is once it is functioning and regulated it would tell the occupants to stay out and once you are out you stay and then call the fire service. It is easier to replace a building than a life,” he said.
The Chief Fire Officer said despite the frequent calls to the Barbados Fire Service Barbadians have become educated on how to contain a fire leading to less damage to individuals homes.
“We have not had a lot of destruction from fires because in a lot of cases the occupants know what to do and they take action to stop the spread of the fire. Therefore when the fire service gets there we are able to minimize the damage,” he said.
Maynard said the fire service is still impacted significantly by persons who do not have insurance for their homes and noted that for someone who is lesser fortunate in most cases they are unable to afford insurance.
“The lack of insurance has been a problem for us. We see that most of the properties that were burned that were not insured were for poor persons and we recognize that if you are poor it is really difficult to build a house. Most of us cannot build two houses in one lifetime. Most people are not capable of rebuilding a house, so insurance is an issue,” he said.
In addition to this, Maynard said another problem facing those lower on the economic ladder was not having the wiring in their homes checked on a frequent basis.
“If your house was wired 25 or 30 years ago even the grade of wire it was wired with might not have been done to sustain the type of load that you are putting on to it now. Therefore, the standards would have changed, so it is good to get a check periodically with a licensed technician to see if in his or her opinion there is need to update it. But you should get it checked. If you know you have had it for more than ten years then definitely you should have it checked,” he said.
Turning his attention to the issue of grass fires he said the Barbados Fire Service has seen a significant increase in grass fires.
“We have had approximately 500-600 grass fires this year as compared to a hundred and something last year. We attributed this to people trying to clear their property because the drought means all the vermin is coming out the grass and then we still have the issue with cow-itch where persons would burn it for temporary relief. So, grass fires have increased tremendously,” he said.
According to Maynard there is not a vast increase in rubbish fires however the Barbados Fire Service is planning to go into communities with an education programme on fire prevention.