On Tuesday January 7th around 9.26 PM the Caribbean Netherlands Fire Department received notice there was a fire in a home in Upper Town in the Bottom. The Fire Department arrived on the scene at approximately 9.40 PM and discovered the structure engulfed in flames. Their first course of action was to lay a water barrier to prevent the further spread of the fire to homes in the immediate surroundings. The complete exercise lasted approximately five hours. The occupants of the home are safe. Police is now investigating the cause of the fire.
In trying to contain the situation Local Fire Commander, Julio Every, reported that his team had faced several challenges including; the structure being made of wood, the fire taking place at nighttime and difficulty maneuvering in the relatively narrow street. “We also experienced pump failure. The pump on the first fire fighting vehicle shut down as the result of overheating. Firefighters were escorted by Police to and from the airport to transport the crash tender “. The fire was controlled and the operations of the Fire Department ceased around 1.30 AM Wednesday morning. They returned to the scene later Wednesday morning for routine inspection.
The Ambulance Services also arrived on the scene shortly after being notified there was a fire. The supervisor on call, Lisette Peterson, reported that as a preventative measure the occupants of the home were taken to the A. M. Medical Center for a thorough check up. Both patients were stable and no life threatening conditions were found. They were kept in the hospital for overnight observation.
Police was also on the scene. They were tasked with closing off the streets from the public. Their main responsibility was to ensure the area remained easily accessible for members of emergency management services. A large crowd was nearby observing the incident. “There were several sincere gestures to help. However, our first responsibility was to keep people at a distance and out of the way of potential danger. People were calm and cooperative. I commend the public for their good behavior and discipline”, says Charlie Smink, Chief of Basic Police Care on Saba.
Representatives of the local disaster management team met with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson around 10.00 AM on Wednesday morning to assess the situation. Meanwhile, the Executive Council of Saba has already undertaken several measures in collaboration with other local agencies to help the family affected by the fire re-establish themselves. The Own your Own Home Foundation and Public Works are working in close collaboration to carry out some minor repairs on a vacant home which will be made available to the family affected by the fire.
Joint press release RCN, January 8, 2013
This story is very one-sided and does not tell the real truth. Seeing the area where this fire took place there were several senior citizens living in that area and nobody from the Emergency Operations found it fitting to go and check on those senior citizens. Several citizens and family members tried to go and check on their relatives and were denied access by the Dutch Police Officers. One family member of one of the seniors was denied entry of the narrow road but knowing the area well he was able to go through another route and was busy wetting down his family residence with water to avoid any sparks hitting the house. In these situations the first thing to look after is the people that is living in the area to make sure all of them are safe and that was not done. Responsible journalism also means speaking with those that were present on the scene. Also what is lacking is that 2 residents called the so call 911 hotline on Bonaire and that call could be considered as a waste of time because the hotline did not even know where the area was.
It is high time that the cellular telephone numbers of all firemen be made public on the island because this calling Bonaire is a total water of time. The cellular number of all emergency responders should be made public to the general public.
I don’t agree with several of the points made in your response. I believe it would be the primary responsibility of 1) the Fire Dept personnel and 2) Local law enforcement to do a safety inspection of the surrounding areas and assign a risk level (high, med, low) and a follow up action plan. It is precisely when untrained, unauthorized, well wishing relatives get involved in these types of situations that needless injury or even death occurs. Perhaps, there needs to be a better disaster or emergency preparedness plan or better coordination amongst parties in the future.
I disagree that the telephone numbers of First Responders should be made public. These are private numbers and the number of the on-call staff is/should be known to the relevant govt authorities. The Dispatch Center in Bonaire understandably may not know the details and specific location of every location in the BES. However, they need to be trained properly, have maps of the islands with roads, street names in digital format and also be able to extract all necessary information from the caller in order to determine the nature of the emergency, and what emergency services and law enforcement response is necessary. Calling 911 and saying “Shorty house on fire” is not exactly helpful in an emergency situation (just as an example).
I think this tragic incident requires a coordinated response, investigation and corrective action plan from all stakeholders. What went wrong, why, what went right and why? The island is too small and the stakes are too high for these types of tragedies to occur and not be investigated fully and improvements made for the future. How ready are we really for a response to an emergency if all stakeholders can’t get their act together.
That’s just my two cents!