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WMC orders audit of hydrants after fire destroys business

Published:Saturday | November 11, 2023 | 12:08 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Ian Myles, deputy mayor of Savanna-la-Mar.
Ian Myles, deputy mayor of Savanna-la-Mar.

WESTERN BUREAU:

The Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC) has requested an audit to ascertain the number of fire hydrants in the parish and their working status.

The move comes after firefighters encountered difficulties in getting water from several hydrants in Savanna-la-Mar, the parish capital, as they responded to a blaze that destroyed a business establishment on Monday night.

“Today I’m calling on the [Westmoreland Division of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB)] to do a comprehensive audit of all the hydrants, not only in the township of Savanna-la-Mar, but in [the entire] parish,” said Deputy Mayor Ian Myles.

As Myles explained at the WMC’s general monthly meeting on Thursday, fire trucks have to travel about three miles outside of the parish capital towards Petersfield to refill their tanks, mainly due to the non-functioning status of the township’s hydrants.

“Mr Chairman, I’m asking that the audit reach the municipality within the shortest possible time because we cannot continue to operate like this, especially in this space where we have so many board structures within this parish,” he insisted, suggesting that it should be done within two weeks.

The population of Westmoreland is approximately 150,000, and more than 50 per cent of its residents live in board houses.

COMPLETELY DESTROYED

The JFB reported that about 9:18 p.m. on November 6, it received a call that a building was on fire along Lewis Street in the parish and that two units were dispatched from the Savanna-la-Mar and Negril stations.

The building, which housed a supermarket, was constructed with concrete and slab roofing with two 40-foot containers. All its contents were destroyed.

Investigations continue into the cause of the fire.

On Thursday, Sergeant Norris Mitchell of the Westmoreland Division of the JFB lauded businessman Melvin Honeyghan for helping to contain the fire by assisting with his private water truck.

He told the WMC that the fire response team had to go to Chantilly to source water because the water pressure in the hydrants in Savanna-la-Mar was very low.

“I am deeply saddened by a series of news items that I have seen recently blasting the municipality for its failure to deal with fire hydrants within the township of Savanna-La-Mar ... I can’t believe that the township of Savanna-La-Mar doesn’t have a working fire hydrant,” Myles said.

Danree Delancey, councillor for the Bethel Town division, expressed sympathies to those affected by Monday’s fire.

“Mr Chairman, up in the hills of Eastern Westmoreland, where I am from, there are no citizens or businessmen up there with a water truck on standby to help us when we have a fire,” Delancey noted. “And based on that, I am renewing my call for a fire station to be put in place in Bethel Town to serve the residents of the upper sections of Westmoreland, and by extension, the neighbouring communities in Eastern Hanover, South St. James, and North West St. Elizabeth.”

When The Gleaner spoke with Honeyghan, he expressed sadness at the state of affairs in the parish capital, where water is concerned.

The businessman recalled that when he was alerted to the fire, he did not hesitate to quickly assemble his support staff and provide all the water he had in storage to help contain the blaze.

“This is something I have done a minimum of five times already,” Honeyghan said, noting that on one of the other occasions, he had to fill JFB units as they responded to an incident at the Savanna-la-Mar as they were completely out.

“If they don’t have water, they can’t put out the fires, and I have learnt from a very long time that without tools you will perish,” Honeyghan said.

“When I went around there Monday night, two units were out of water. One was on standby; they ended up with three units, but no water. I had to give them a half tank of water first, then I had to empty the water from my building to give them a full tank and they were able to put out the fire,” Honeyghan said.

albert.ferguson@gleanerjm.com