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Forensic Report On Treasury Fire Critical of Nevis Fire Department by David Wooler

Report’s author recommends himself for position of Fire Safety Consultant, writes glowing biography within report in support of himself Could proper training of established fire fighting methods and a fire code have limited the damage to the Nevis Treasury building in January’s fire? Possibly, according to a scathing forensic report from March, which stated arson was the cause of the blaze, and also eviscerated the Fire Department and its officials for their lack of training and equipment. From criticizing the techniques used while engaging the fire when electrical power is still on to lack of basic equipment on scene to the slow response time of command personnel, the report also made a number of recommendations, including appointing its author, retired Toronto, Canada Fire Chief Robert T. Riches, as the Federation’s Fire Safety Consultant. Mr. Riches could not be reached for comment. According to the report, “It became clear during the investigation there is a common belief that Fire Officers cannot enter a burning building if electricity is involved.”It further states that “with up-to-date training, the Fire Officers would have now a safe way to enter the building, extinguish the fire and remain safe from the effects of electricity.”The technique outlined in the report explained how firefighters could spray water on the flames even while there is electrical activity. Typically, nozzles on fire hoses use a straight stream, which is a “good conductor for electricity to follow,”according to the report. To avoid this and the risk of being electrocuted, the report states ‘simply turn the setting on the nozzle from straight stream to wide-angle fog.”Doing this causes a broken stream of “incredibly fine water droplets…. this is not a good conductor of electricity,’the report concluded. “The Officer in Command should be trained first to break down the belief that a fire cannot be broached until the electricity is turned off,’the report stated. “Then all Fire Offices should be trained in the technique until they are confident and competent in using the technique. It is crucial that the Officer in Command understands, demonstrates and promotes the use and benefits of this technique.”The Federation’s Acting Fire Chief Everette O’Garro doesn’t necessarily agree. While it may work in theory, Acting Chief O’Garro said, “It’s risky and dangerous and we don’t attempt it.”Divisional Fire Officer (DFOR) David Stapleton in Nevis, in charge of the stations in Charlestown and the airport, agrees. “In theory, you use a fog pattern and electricity might not get back to you. It’s a theory,”he said. “My guys are wary.”DFOR Stapleton disagreed with findings in the report that stated his men had to return to the station for gear. In his report, Mr. Riches wrote, “Numerous reliable reports were made regarding the apparent unpreparedness of the Fire Officers responding to the fire. For example: there were reports of only one Fire Office being in full firefighter gear; of one Fire Officer having to return to the fire appliance to get a fire helmet; of another Fire Officer on scene with no firefighting gear whatsoever; and, of one Fire Officer having to return to the station for a flashlight.”Not true, according to DFOR Stapleton. “Everyone had their equipment,”he said. “Everyone was fully attired.”He said that all the members of the fire department have “bunker gear,”- the protective pants, jackets, boots and helmets typically worn by firefighters. After the fire was extinguished, some firefighters removed their heavy jackets, he said. One priority for the Nevis Fire Department is scheduled to arrive in September – a new fire truck. Originally due on the island last month, it’s scheduled arrival is now September, said Acting Chief O’Garro. The Mercedes fire truck, being constructed to the island’s specific needs, is being built in Bulgaria with the assistance of the European Union, he said. It will contain all the necessary gear – hoses, ladders, breathing apparatus, etc., he said, with the tanker having a capacity of 800 gallons of water and 400 gallons of foam. Nevis’s only truck now is an ancient model with a capacity of 1000 gallons of water, no foam. DFOR Stapleton said outside of the new fire truck, the next priority is ‘training.””With training they will be more proficient with their job,”he said. “Basically, I’ll say we need training, training and more training.”Also needed for the Federation is a fire code, something that is non-existent.

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