The National Fire Service has received a 6-month extension from Atlantic Bank to vacate the property on Cleghorn Street in Belize City. The bank purchased the land from the government through the Barrow administration last year and had given until mid-December for the fire station to be relocated. Minister Orlando Habet who holds the portfolio for the National Fire Service spoke to Love News explaining the options they are currently exploring for the new fire station.
Hon. Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development, Climate Change & Disaster Risk Management: “The land on Chetumal Street which is still available but an alternative land because the first one which was identified accordingly has been settled in by squatters but there is another parcel of land that has been made available for the construction of the new fire department. However we have been looking at alternative locations because it’s a low area and my understanding is that since we already have a fire department building on Dolphin Street which would be southside you want to replace another fire station but on north side so we’re looking at alternative locations. In the mean time what they were doing was trying to find a location where they could rent so that at least the staff can be there and maybe with one truck and they have already moved some of the trucks to Ladyville and I think a few of them have been sent to Santa Elena in the Cayo district. There was also a proposal for the construction of a fire department at least even if temporary in a location close to the Municipal Air Strip. So as late as last week our CEO was looking at the location and they have identified a location where something temporary can be placed but the person who is in charge of the municipal airstrip has also shown us a location where we can put a permanent structure which to me would be the best place because it also serves the purpose for having a fire department at the air strip and so having it there serves the air strip and also provides the services for north side Belize City if we construct the new fire station on that location.”
Minister Habet also remarked on the working conditions that the firefighters have had to endure over the last twelve years.
Hon. Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development, Climate Change & Disaster Risk Management: “In the meantime we have negotiated with Atlantic Bank because the deadline was to move away some time around the middle of December but they have agreed to give us an extension of six months. The problem is six months might be okay for an extension but the humane conditions of that location is not good. It is really deplorable, when we visited it was raining outside but it was also raining inside there was water all inside of the building, our feet got wet, so they really need to move out of that location. So we don’t want to spend six months with them there so we’ll have to try to find at least an alternative location at least if temporary while they locate the monies to build the new building. That is another problem because we’re trying to find out now where that money is because they sold the fire station for about $2.8 million and the Government was to provide another additional $.7 million dollars for a $3.5 million building and so if that money has already been spent now the new administration has to find the entire money.”
According to Minister Habet the property was sold for two point eight million dollars, and they are now working on tracing the money to invest in the new fire station.
Hon. Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development, Climate Change & Disaster Risk Management: “In addition to that it’s the human side, the personnel. If you don’t take care of the personnel and they’re not comfortable they will not be out there comfortable outing fires, taking risks risking their lives and not being able to return to their families. So we are doing a little transformation within the Ministry and we hope to address the problem with the personnel as soon as possible. There are people who have been transferred from one location to the next, people who live in Corozal but are working in Punta Gorda it doesn’t make sense having their families in Corozal Town. There are people who have been waiting for their increments for two or three years haven’t been able to get their increments which is something that’s a legal thing that they need to get on a yearly basis, promotions are not forthcoming and so we need to work on that. We have to get the people satisfied and comfortable so that we can get the best service out of people so we need to address that human side first.”
The Belize City Fire Station is not the only issue for the government. Love News also learnt today that the San Ignacio Fire Station property was sold by the previous administration and the firefighters are forced to work out of a sports stadium.