More than half of the fire department’s portable water pumps have malfunctioned because of continuous use to extinguish the three-week-old fire still burning at the Cox Heath dump.
“It is not a fire designed for firefighting but we were the ones that were tasked with it. A fire like this needs heavy-duty pumps that are capable of being in operations for days. But our pumps do not have that capability but they were still nonetheless put into service,” said Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean today, May 31.
“So far, we have problems with five of them (the pumps) and that may hamper our ability to respond in certain areas unless we can get them replaced.”
According to McLean, the fire department had seven pumps and had borrowed an additional one from officials in the neighbouring US Virgin Islands. However, only three are now functional.
“The plan will be as it always been – to appeal to the government for the purchasing of new equipment,” he said further.
Importance of the pumps
McLean said the pumps, which resemble a medium-sized refrigerator, are used quite often – especially during the hurricane season that officially begins tomorrow, June 1.
He said fire hydrants and service trucks are usually used during a house fire, while water pumps are important to extinguish fires in large areas. Chief McLean said the portable equipment is specifically used to pump water from the ocean on to a fire or to remove contaminated water from cisterns; particularly after a hurricane or storm.
While he was unable to state the exact cost to replace the pumps, the fire chief said the figure would be in the thousands.
Fire still challenging
As for the Cox Heath fire, McLean said despite working daily for the last few weeks and despite seeing a considerable drop in the volume of smoke, the challenge remains.
“Each time the heavy equipment uncovers another layer which would allow us to extinguish it and the material below it, then oxygen is released to the level below and along comes some plume and more smoke.”
“So, no matter what you do, the residents of West End will always be experiencing the smoke even though the overall amount of the smoke is significantly reduced.”
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