FIRE SERVICE ASSOCIATION president Leo Ramkissoon says the Chief Fire Officer is the person responsible for maintaining and procuring fire trucks for the fire service.
Ramkissoon made the statement in the aftermath of Friday's fire in Santa Cruz which gutted $ 1.2 million home and claimed the life of a 98-year-old man.
“The CFO bears the brunt of the responsibility to procure all the appliances and equipment and to manage the fire services generally,” he said. “He is the CEO of the Fire Service.”
Ramkissoon noted, however, that the CFO may be limited by provisions made by government to the Fire Service.
“Remember, it is a public service and it depends on the budget and the competing interests.
"So notwithstanding that he has the responsibility to procure, it is a combination of himself and the permanent secretary and the Minister of National Security and the Cabinet.”
Since April, it was reported that there were no trucks at Woodbrook, Belmont, Morvant and Santa Cruz fire stations. Ramkissoon added that stations such as in Mayaro also do not have a truck.
“Imagine, we had a call in Blanchisseuse just recently and the Wrigtson Road Fire Station had to respond to that, because there were no trucks in Santa Cruz to reach them.
"So we had to go all the way up the North Coast to respond.
"And when that happens, there would be no truck in Port of Spain, which leaves the area vulnerable.
“If a major fire breaks out in Port of Spain, God forbid, while we are on a call in Blanchisseuse, we would have to get a truck from Four Roads (Diego Martin), San Juan or Tunapuna to respond.
"Mind you, as we speak Four Roads doesn’t have a truck. The truck is down.”
He said the lack of equipment adds precious minutes to the service’s response time, which could result in loss of property and loss of life.
“You have the CFO admitting that less than half of the trucks in the service are operating. And yet we are seeing at the Independence parade they are coming out shiny and nice.
"They are just fooling poor people with that.
“When you have a fire in some areas and you have no appliance, the community don’t want to hear the fireman saying they don’t have an appliance. Sometimes fire officers may be subject to threats because the community is seeing the fire service as one, and not that the job of the firefighter is being stymied.”
On Friday, Malcolm Diaz, 98, died from smoke inhalation after a fire gutted his home in Santa Cruz. Officers told Newsday they received a call at 6.55 pm on Friday, but there was a lack of equipment at the Santa Cruz fire station.
Units from the Wrightson Road station had to respond, but by the time the fire truck arrived, the house was already engulfed and Diaz could not be saved.
CFO Arnold Bristo told Newsday in a phone conversation that earlier this year several vehicles were down because they needed parts. He explained that as working vehicles they would shut down from time to time.
“We fix vehicles. Vehicles get problems. It is a fire appliance, and they tend to give problems as they work,” he said.
Bristo said he had just returned to Trinidad and Tobago from abroad and would be briefed on the state of the fire appliances on Monday.