McKenzie mulls transportation for firefighters

OCHO RIOS, St Ann — Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie said he is mulling the possibility of providing transportation for firefighters travelling home after long hours on the job, adding that his ministry intends to establish a roll of honour in memory of fallen members of the profession.

He made the announcement on Friday while promising to assist with the burial of two young firefighters who died last week Monday night in a two-vehicle smash-up on Laughland main road in St Ann.

The deceased — Stefan Walters and Alex Williams — who had just completed their shifts at Ocho Rios Fire Station, were travelling in the same ill-fated car. They had just dropped a colleague home and were heading to their places of abode when their lives were snuffed out.

In light of that, McKenzie, who has ministerial responsibility for the Jamaica Fire Brigade, lamented the fact that firefighters have to drive home after long hours at work.

“The work of the Jamaica Fire Brigade is challenging, and I think it is about the third time since I assumed the position of minister that firefighters would have lost their lives after completing their shifts,” he told mourning personnel at Ocho Rios Fire Station.

McKenzie added: “I think the occasion is right to engage the leadership of the brigade in some discussions as to how we can treat this situation that will prevent firefighters, after completing long shifts to get home, [from having] to be sitting behind a wheel and driving. It is a discussion that has already started with the commissioner [of the brigade] … What we are saying is, let us help mitigate any further loss of lives under those circumstances.”

In relation to his proposed roll of honour for fire personnel who die in the line of duty, the minister noted that the fire brigade would not be the first organisation to have such an arrangement in place.

“We are committed to ensure that the men and women who continue in the struggle that, after something has happened, we will be able to have a board — a roll of honour that we can place their names on. I mean, it is not much comfort [and] you can’t replace lives, but at least you give the kind of recognition which is done across the world in organisations such as the police [force] and the army. I am going to be insisting that this becomes a part of the history of the Jamaica Fire Brigade. The Jamaica Fire Brigade is one of the oldest institutions in Jamaica,” McKenzie said.

He also expressed condolence to the families and colleagues of the late Williams and Walters.

“I will be doing everything in my power to ensure that the families of the two fallen brothers receive the best possible support…,” the minister added while enquiring whether the late firefighters had children.

McKenzie further said: “We will do what is necessary to ensure that the families are not stressed too much in terms of all that is necessary to give them a decent going home. I am giving the full assurance that I will work closely with the commissioner [of fire] to ensure that is done… The circumstances are very unfortunate because they have left a cloud of darkness not only here in Ocho Rios, but across the entire fraternity of the Jamaica Fire Brigade… I have already extended my condolences to the families, and I have also done that to the family here at the Ocho Rios Fire Station.”

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