By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff
Immediate action is to be taken to rehabilitate the Road Town-based Virgin Islands Fire & Rescue headquarters which has been in a state of disrepair for the last 15 months; resulting in widespread health issues for fire officers stationed at the hurricane-ravaged facility.
Responding to a BVI News report on the chronic issues that have been bedevilling the fire department, portfolio minister Mark Vanterpool announced Thursday evening that works are expected to start on the facility as early as next Monday.
The Minister said Cabinet, on November 28, approved for a $795,541.62 contract to be awarded to Quality Construction Limited to conduct rehabilitation works on the fire station. That contract will be signed on Friday, December 7.
Vanterpool said rehabilitation works will be completed approximately five to six months from next week’s start date.
“We certainly will have the complete roof replaced, the offices on the top [floor] will be completely redone, and the barracks for the officers will be cleaned up and organised so that they can have better conditions over there. That’s the main things that are in the rehabilitation of the fire station,” Vanterpool told members of the media in an emergency press conference on Thursday.
Things took longer than we would have liked
“We do sincerely regret that it’s taking so long to get the fire station repaired and restored, back up-and-running, after hurricanes Irma and Maria last year. We wish that we were able to do it a lot sooner but it took some time to get things in order … We wanted to do it a lot better and a lot stronger and so it took a little more time than we would have liked,” the minister explained.
Because of the absence of a roof, the facility floods whenever it rains. These wet conditions became a breeding ground for mould and mosquitos which, in turn, led to the 32 fire officers stationed at the facility being gravely affected.
Minister Vanterpool said he was not aware of the extent to which the officers were being affected.
“We were aware of the conditions there. They were not good conditions. But, we never had any reports that there was that level of illnesses and so on … But, this is not to say that it hasn’t happened. We regret that the conditions were such that the fire officers would have fallen sick and so on,” the apologetic Vanterpool said.
I applaud you, fire officers
He applauded the officers who he said have been executing their duties well despite the overwhelming conditions they’ve had to endure throughout the last several months.
The minister, in the meantime, noted that other fire facilities such as the station on the sister island of Virgin Gorda will also undergo some much-needed repairs.
“I know there is an evaluation being done there and there are some works to be done on that fire station also. I can’t say exactly when that will be done, right now,” Vanterpool said.
The territory’s Fire & Rescue Services are also to receive a shipment of additional fire trucks to carry out their various duties.
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