Arrival of new fire truck delayed

  • Hamilton blaze: the 2016 fire on Front Street (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Hamilton blaze: the 2016 fire on Front Street (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

More than a year after firefighters were assured a new ladder truck was on its way, they were told yesterday it would be at least another 12 months before a replacement would be ready for use.

The Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service’s efforts were hampered by the absence of the hydraulic ladder platform vehicle, which was out of action as a result of maintenance issues, when they tackled a massive blaze on Front Street in July 2016.

Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, told the House of Assembly yesterday that negotiations to secure a replacement are nearing an end but it will take another year to manufacture. A spokeswoman later added the appliance would be bought by the close of 2018-19.

The statement came 16 months after Mr Caines’s predecessor in the role, Jeff Baron of the One Bermuda Alliance, said talks with a supplier in Europe were complete and it was hoped the ladder truck would be on island “as soon as possible”.

Sergeant Allan Wilkinson, the president of the Fire Service Association, highlighted firefighters’ worries yesterday that “essential” machinery cannot be relied upon for operation.

He said: “There’s some concern over the vehicle we have in service and available to us. If we don’t have it, the approach to fighting fires is going to be more risky.”

Mr Wilkinson explained: “It’s an essential piece of equipment. We were minus it during the Front Street fire because of mechanical issues.”

Extending up to 110 feet, the 20-year-old ladder truck allows teams to be able to spray water from greater heights and access taller buildings.

It took 16 vehicles and more than 30 fire personnel to battle the Front Street blaze in 2016 that started at around 4.30am and destroyed a number of buildings.

At the time, sources told The Royal Gazette that the ladder truck had been long out of service and that a host of other mechanical problems had grown into a longstanding source of frustration for firefighters.

It later emerged the vehicle was unavailable because of issues with its electronic circuitry and the BFRS spent $47,696 to service and repair the truck during the fiscal period 2015-16.

Mr Wilkinson said yesterday: “It’s one of those pieces of equipment that doesn’t get utilised on a daily basis. However, there are critical situations when its use is required.”

He spoke after the minister told MPs the BFRS needs “to update some of its emergency vehicles”.

Mr Caines continued: “To this end, the fire service management team is completing negotiations with an overseas vendor to start the building process for a new ladder truck to replace the current vehicle, the 20-year-old ‘Bronto’.

“Manufacture of the new vehicle will take approximately one year, to commence once a contract agreement has been reached and signed.”

In March 2017, Mr Baron, then national security minister, said that upon approval of the 2017-18 budget, a new hydraulic ladder platform vehicle could be shipped from overseas and it was suggested that would be done by the end of that fiscal year.

At the time, he said: “Negotiations have been ongoing for some time between the fire service and the supplier in Europe and they are now complete.

“Everyone is primed to start the process of getting a new ladder truck to Bermuda as soon as the budget has been debated and passed. We would like to see it here in Bermuda as soon as possible.”

Although cost details to replace the Bronto were unavailable in the House yesterday, one source believed a new vehicle would be priced in the region of $800,000 to $1 million.

Mr Caines also told members the fire service has started talks about the purchase of a new ambulance, to help with its East End service. He said after 25 weeks of training, the 13 newest firefighting recruits would today travel to Canada for a month-long course at Pearson Airport in Toronto.

Further measures are being considered to improve fire-fighting capabilities in the City of Hamilton.

The minister said: “The existing hydrant system requires repairs and upgrading to keep pace with the fire safety and extinguishing requirements of a modern city.

“This may mean the purchasing of another portable hydrant system.

“The BFRS will continue to work with the Corporation to ensure that the city’s fire safety needs are met in an efficient and cost-effective manner.”

The House was told that a fire service “recharge” to

the Corporation of Hamilton, totalling $6,270,950 had been written off as a gesture of goodwill.

When a government spokeswoman was asked for further clarification from Mr Caines on a timeline for the Bronto replacement, she replied: “The process to source and acquire a ladder truck is a lengthy one, which began under the previous administration but was far from complete at the time of the election, on July 18, 2017.

“After the election, under the current government the BFRS has made significant progress, to the point that they intend to purchase and take possession of the new appliance during the current, 2018-2019, financial year”.

No one at the BFRS was available for comment and Mr Baron could not be reached.

To read Wayne Caines’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”

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Published Jul 21, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 21, 2018 at 5:25 pm)

Arrival of new fire truck delayed

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