Thursday, December 1, 2022

West Coast Fire Service Boss Appeals for Law to Help Them Prosecute “Malicious Callers”


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By Momodou Jarju

The Divisional Fire Officer for West Coast Region has appealed to the Standing Committee on Defense and Security of the National Assembly to help them with a law that would enable them institute court action against people she described as “malicious callers.”

Adama Sanyang said they need a fire brigade act or a law criminalizing insult of fire fighters so that people who call their telephone and insult them during their line of duty could be taken to court.

She expressed her disappointment on the manner in which the public treat them while they endeavor to execute their duty.

She made the statement during an engagement they had with the aforesaid committee on last week.

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The head of the Brikama Fire and Rescue Station said civilians do not know the hardship they are enduring on a regular basis and would be insulting their parents and at worst throw stones at them for committing no crime.

“We receive every type of humiliation and harassment from the public within the West Coast Region. And I have been reporting it to the regional governor. Every task meeting whenever I go there, I will have to report that to them,” she said.

Speaking further, Officer Sanyang said another issue that the proposed Act can help address is the issue of drivers not leaving the road when they are rushing to the scene of emergency. This, she said, has led to them having an accident which caused damage to their fire engine.

She added: “If we are going to emergency grounds, drivers do not leave the road for us.”
According to her, these types of incidents had resulted in their fire tender colliding with other vehicles on the way. She pointed at a fire tender whose face has been damaged in an accident.

“The fire engine has an accident because a vehicle was on the road and the vehicle failed to leave the road for fire service officers,” she explained.

She also appealed for them to be involved in the planning of residence because they often find it difficult to access some of the houses or places affected by fire due to the way the compounds are situated.

“Fire Service should have an office at the Planning unit so that before they give approval for buildings, firefighters will make sure every residence has an emergency exit {path},” she said.

She said uniform is another problem they struggle to get, saying she cannot remember the last time they were supplied with boots. She said they sometimes buy uniform for themselves, adding they sometimes receive uniforms as gifts.

Madam Sanyang said they have very limited fire hydrants in West Coast Region which is making their work difficult.

“We all know firefighters cannot perform without Hydrants because that is where they get water from to be able to go and fight fire. We have very limited fire hydrants, within West Coast Region. That is a very serious concern. We don’t have a hydrant in this station,” she said.

“So if there is a fire outbreak, the only vehicle we have here will go and discharge 1800 liters of water at the scene of the fire. From there, it would have to leave the fire ground, go to where ever they can get water, refill the tank and come back. So, the fire will not wait for them. This is a big problem we are facing here.”

Sanyang added they are short of protective gears which they ought to have to enhance the effectiveness of their work.

The veteran fire officer said personal protective gears are important in their work because when sand miners are trapped at quarries, it is fire fighters who go and rescue them. He added that it is the fire fighters who rescue people when they accidentally fall in toilets.

She pleaded to the central government to help them have airtime in the media so that they could have sensitization programmes to help the population understand their mode of operation.

Sanyang said they don’t have a utility vehicle for the station or the commander of the station, adding that even getting fuel supply is a constraint.

She added: “Right now the fire tender is empty because they (fire officers) are from emergency. There is no fuel with us. We have to negotiate with other vehicles to give them money to buy fuel so that they would go up to Kanifing to collect either 50 or 60 litres of fuel to bring it here for our fire engine. That quantity is too small for this fire engine.

Immediately, the fuel arrives, sometimes we respond to three or four calls at a time. Then the fuel would run down. We apply on a document and give fare to someone to travel up to Kanifing to drop the application and then collect fuel, put it in commercial vehicle and bring it to Brikama before we are able to operate. That is a big problem we are facing here,” she said.

Lack of office space is also a constraint the station is facing, she said. Meanwhile, Sanyang said in 2020, from January to February, they received 50 reported cases and of which, 25 were rescue calls.

The chairperson of the committee and deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Momodou L.K. Sanneh, assured the fire station officers that their concerns are noted and that after the end of their tour, a comprehensive report would be prepared and presented before the plenary for them to look into their concerns.

He added the report will also help the members of the National Assembly in preparing policies or enacting new laws to address the concerns of people they are representing.

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