The public relations officer of The Gambia Fire and Rescue Services, Pateh Gibba, disclosed to The Chronicle that a lack of sufficient equipment is making it difficult for the fire department to respond to emergencies. He made this disclosure and others in relation to the work of the fire department in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle recently.
“There are not enough equipment at the fire services. Over the years, from 1947 up to date, we have been running a very difficult errand for the people of The Gambia. And when I say difficult errand, I mean running the services in the absence of sufficient equipment to do what is required of us,” Gibba said.
According to him, the fire service department relies on improvisation because they do not have the necessary equipment to do their job in a professional and efficient manner. He went further to say they always contact their line ministry whenever they deem it necessary, but their response is not positive.
“We improvise with the limited resources that are made available…you have to do it because you have no other thing to do than to improvise.”
“It’s a department that is directly under the Ministry of Interior and whenever we deem it necessary to speak out to our line ministry that’s what we do. We have written to our ministry on several occasions regarding the availability of equipment and appliances, training and everything is like something we have done over and over.”
Despite the discouraging response, the PRO was quick to say that this doesn’t mean the ministry is not supporting them in anyway, however he stressed that more needs to be done. He mentioned that the fire service depend on donations sent by their counterpart the Avon brigade in the United Kingdom for second hand equipment.
When The Chronicle contacted the Ministry of Interior regarding the statements given by the public relations officer, the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ousman Ceesay, responded that the ministry is there to facilitate the needs of the department, but they do not approve any budget. Ceesay also mentioned that all budgets are directed to the finance ministry and that the ultimate approval is done in parliament.
The PRO gave the recent Kanifing industrial area fire outbreak in October as an example of what is needed to tend to certain emergencies. According to the PRO, the incident in Kanifing could have been deescalated if there were sufficient equipment, accessible hydrants and proper infrastructure to allow the fire department to work efficiently.
He reiterated that government should look into the fire department in a holistic manner and help in the provision of new appliances and equipment to save lives and protect property. The fire services department was established to save lives and protect property from fire destruction and render humanitarian services.