NO ROOM FOR UNEQUAL ACCESS TO FIRE SERVICES
DECENTRALIZATION OF SERVICES
It is with a great sense of satisfaction, fulfillment and pride that I address
you today on the occasion of the formal opening of the Vieux Fort fire station.
As we all know, fire can be a double-edged sword. Because of its many uses in
daily life it is an indispensable tool to human existence. However, fire can be
a deadly tool. Throughout history there are countless examples of fire
destroying lives, property and indeed, entire cities. We know too that fire is
used as a weapon of war and violence. This is precisely why a whole new science
has developed around the management and prevention of fires.
The risk posed to our society by accidental fires and acts of arson are real.
When these accidents and acts of arson occur, our various communities must be
equipped to protect the lives and property of persons who can easily fall victim
to the devastation that fires can unleash.
It is no wonder that as our society grows and develops the demand for these
services intensify. The growing complexity of the society will, invariably, give
rise to a growth in expectations and a correspondent increase in the demand for
better and decentralized services.
Government, therefore, has a responsibility to respond in an effective manner to
the demands for better and decentralized services. The truth is, we cannot
continue to treat our coastal communities as if they exist on the fringes or the
outposts of development. We must bring development to them. The protection of
life and property demand that we respond to the needs of all our citizens in a
timely and reliable manner. Not only must we strive to be more responsive to
their needs but we must also endeavour to improve the quality and delivery of
the services provided. Under this Government there is no room for unbalanced or
The days have long past when the residents of our towns and villages had to wait
for hours when in distress. The length of time it takes for one in distress to
access essential services can make a difference between life and death. The
provision of adequate services to the major population centres has to be a
In keeping with the overall goal of providing efficient and quality service to
all Saint Lucians, irrespective of their place of residence, the Government has
undertaken to construct a number of new fire stations island wide. Gros-Islet
and Dennery Fire Stations have been commissioned. Today, it is the turn of the
residents of Vieux-Fort and its immediate environs to celebrate the completion
of this new facility.
A LONG HISTORY OF SERVICE
Today too, I salute our fire service. The fire service in Saint Lucia has had a
long, distinguished and proud record of service. Our firemen have long exhibited
a great level of professionalism in the execution of their duties. They work
long hours and make great personal sacrifices to ensure that they protect life
and property. Our Fire Service continues to perform with commendable
distinction. The successes that our fire services have enjoyed are a great
credit to the fire authorities, and the dedicated and committed men and women
who have chosen firefighting as a vocation.
We are also aware however, that if they are to continue to deliver quality
service to our various communities, we must also invest resources in providing
the necessary equipment and an enabling environment to allow them to do so. This
Station is an eloquent statement of this Governmentís commitment.
INVESTMENT IN PUBLIC SERVICES
Despite the achievements of the fire services over the years, there can be no
room for complacency. Their task will only become more difficult with the
passage of time and as greater demands are placed on them by a population whose
expectations are forever on the rise. The fire service must however, build on
its past successes. But it is our responsibility to help it do so. Whereas it is
the publicís right to demand high quality public services, the public must also
be aware that the provision of high quality public services comes at a price. It
would be foolhardy of us to expect the delivery of quality services without
being prepared to make the required long-term investment.
New investments in the provision of public services are a necessary
pre-condition for improvement and modernization of the essential services. The
achievement of significant improvements in performance call for new methods of
organizing and delivering services. This is true of all other public services as
it is for the fire services.
THE CHANGING ROLE OF THE FIRE SERVICE
As a society we are increasingly aware that the role of the fire service is
changing, significantly. There is greater emphasis being placed by the various
fire departments on working with the communities to reduce fire risks. But
increasingly the role of the fire services is expanding far beyond the
traditional role of responding to fires. The functions of the fire services have
evolved to incorporate dealing with road traffic accidents and even
Let me explain. Year after year, fire personnel are called to contain fires
which consume trees, grass and foliage. These fires are damaging to our
sensitive ecology, and wreck havoc to our plant life. I hope that the day will
come when stiff penalties are introduced to punish those who deliberately set
fire to those areas. We cannot afford the routine and deliberate destruction to
As with all other public services, we can expect that the challenges facing the
fire service will continue to evolve. Consequently, it is critical that those
involved in fire prevention and protection understand these changes and devise
appropriate measures for dealing with them. It means therefore that the fire
services must remain receptive to change and committed to developing and
improving the services provided to the public that they serve.
Increasingly, as new demands are placed on the fire service, there will also be
a need to increase both capacity and the energy to enable it to contribute to
the benefit of the community. Whereas, the investments in this new facility are
significant, it is not expected that it will solve all the resource needs of the
fire service in Vieux Fort. However, it is a first step in helping the Vieux
Fort fire department work more efficiently and deliver better quality service to
A SOUTHERN DIVISIONAL HEADQUARTERS
This station is unique in that it will serve as the Southern Divisional
Headquarters of the Saint Lucia Fire Service. It is intended to specifically
serve the communities of Choieseul, Laborie and Vieux Fort. It is for this
reason that it has been placed in this strategic location and with the new Vieux
Fort to Soufriere highway, it is within the reach of every community within the
This Southern Divisional facility was built and furnished at a total cost of EC
$2.2 million. A second major objective of this Government is that of
institutional strengthening and capacity building. It is within this context,
therefore, that we present a well equipped facility with appropriate staffing.
About one and half weeks ago twenty-nine (29) recruits graduated from the
training school. Seventeen (17) have been assigned to the facility. It is
anticipated therefore, that the communities spanning from Praslin and Micoud in
the East, Vieux Fort in the South, Laborie, Choiseul, Soufriere, and Canaries in
the West will benefit from the quality service which this Headquarters has to
A total of twenty-eight (28) officers will be assigned here. It is to be noted
that the old training grounds at Beane Field has to be relocated due to the
expansion plans of Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA). This has
therefore provided the opportunity to consider a Training Complex for the
paramilitary services within the island. It is envisaged that in the long term
the facility will provide training for the Police Service, the Fire Service, the
Air and Sea Ports Police and Private Security Services needing specialized
It is important to indicate that this compound will have an engineering unit
comprising of two (2) officers charged with the responsibility for servicing the
eighteen (18) fire units and other equipment assigned to the Southern Region. I
understand that a Fireman who was provided with a scholarship in Cuba has
recently graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and I hope he will
form part of the Engineering team in the South.
This Southern Divisional Headquarters is also strategically placed and timely in
the provision of quality services to an expanding tourist industry. The recent
opening of the Coconut Bay Resort, in addition to the imminent construction of
the Paradis Hotel and Resort in Praslin and the Sapphire Cove Resort in Laborie
will present the Southern Headquarters with new challenges which I am sure they
are eager to embrace.
This newly constructed facility in Vieux-Fort belongs to the entire community.
Let it serve as a watchtower. It is my hope that this new facility will serve to
greatly increase the sense of security and safety that the residents of
Vieux-Fort and its environs feel. But the provision of a new facility in itself
does not change mindset or attitudes. If the officers who will come to occupy
this facility carry with them old attitudes about the provision of service then
it is unlikely that a marked improvement in the quality of service will result.
However, fire prevention is not simply the task of the fire officers. It is a
responsibility shared by the entire community. We must all work together to
respond to the new and emerging challenges of fire safety and other accidents
There is need for the forging of partnerships between the community and the
service providers. It is only through the creation of such strategic
partnerships that we will be able to maintain and improve the quality of service
provided to members of the community. There is broad agreement among all
concerned that there is a need to place greater emphasis on fire prevention.
There is also broad agreement that the safety of the residents is a necessary
priority. If that is indeed the case then there must be a willingness to work
together to ensure that goal of reducing the incidence of fire and providing
greater security to homeowners, business and citizens.
AVOIDING THE CULTURE OF BLAME
As we endeavour to modernize and improve the quality of services provided to the
community of Vieux Fort, it is imperative that a culture of suspicion and blame
do not develop as it is counter productive to the provision of quality services.
It is important that a level of trust develop between the community and the
officers charged with delivering this service. We all want a first class service
to the public. We all accept that if this is going to be achieved we need to
recruit, retain and motivate fire service staff. Through the construction of
this new facility we have taken a step to emphasize our commitment to better
equip the Saint Lucia Fire Service to better serve our communities.
I therefore want to urge the fire officers who shall be the custodians of this
facility to utilize it to the benefit of the entire Vieux Fort community.
Protect and maintain this new infrastructure so as to ensure that it does not
fall into disrepair. That is the only way to ensure that it continues to serve
the community of Vieux Fort way into the future.
I thank you.