Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has responded to questions about why none of the three new fire trucks bought for Argyle International Airport was used to fight the blaze in Kingstown on Sunday.
The fire, the second in the city in a week, gutted three unoccupied, government buildings on Halifax and Egmont Streets.
A fire tender from E.T. Joshua Airport was deployed to help quell the raging inferno.
But Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace and many other citizens raised questions about why none of the brand new, state-of-the-art fire trucks that arrived in the country last November was not deployed.
- Why weren’t fire trucks for Argyle airport used in Kingstown? — Eustace
- Vagrants lived in buildings destroyed by fire in Kingstown
“The simple answer is that those trucks have not yet been fully commissioned and there is some additional training which is required to be done, though training has been done,” Gonsalves, who, as Minister of National Security, has ministerial responsibility for the Fire Department, told Parliament on Tuesday.
“Now, if there is an emergency at the airport proper, it is understandable they will put them into immediate use there, and the Director of Airports understands that,” he said.
“Persons may say, ‘Why you just don’t commission them?’ Well, apart from the issue of the training, which we have to complete, and a substantial amount has been done already, the one-year warranty runs from the time of commission and that is the practical issue. That is the answer to the query,” Gonsalves said.
He described as “a legitimate query which has been raised” the questions about the non-use of the fire tenders.
“Other persons would naturally raise it. ‘You have these fire trucks, why didn’t you use one of them?’” he told lawmakers.
“But I must say the fire fighters and the Deputy Commissioner of Police told me on the night they have adequate facility with the two fire engines that they had and containing it into those areas which were affected,” said Gonsalves, who visited the scene while the buildings were on fire.
But Gonsalves’ answers have raised further queries, in light of the fact that he said that the training of the fire fighters is incomplete.
The three fire trucks arrived in the country last November, ahead of the then December 2014 projected completion date for the Argyle International Airport.
The airport missed that completion date — one of several since 2011 — and also missed the mid-2015 target.
Yet, the training of the fire fighters is incomplete.
The government has said that the airport will be completed by year-end.
A fire tender from E.T. Joshua Airport was also deployed to help fight the blaze in Kingstown one week earlier, on Aug. 16, that gutted Coreas Mini Mart on Lower Bay Street.