We need to place emphasis on fire prevention

Dear Editor,

It is a great pity to see another historical building erased by fire, in this case the St Joseph Mercy Hospital.

I see the usual condemnation of the fire service, and their “leaky hoses” taking another after-fire bashing. One would think that in a mainly wooden city like ours we would have a crack fire service with such extensive knowledge of fires in wooden buildings that we would be a sought after source of information and experience to fire services elsewhere.

Whatever material you build with, fires are an unfortunate way of life, so we must be prepared and use every experience gained from each to build better defences. The fire service must not just sit back and wait for the next emergency call, for the sole reason of putting out the blaze but must determine the absolutely best way of preventing or minimizing it.

Not only must we not have “leaky hoses” but altogether a more efficiently equipped and trained fire department.  We can start by taking stock of all public buildings, especially those of predominantly wooden construction, but not limited to those only; we must pay attention to the concrete ones as well. We should ensure that all the possible and especially the well-known hazards are avoided, records properly stored in fire and water proof-equipment, electrical services re-evaluated, fire points installed in all crucial areas. Persons working in these buildings must have a good understanding of safety procedures, such as evacuation methods; where electrical mains are located; how to handle fire-extinguishing equipment; which doors and windows should be shut whenever possible to contain or lessen the amount of oxygen at the source; some basic emergency care procedures. I am sure the fire department can hold ongoing seminars to train personnel in fire prevention and safety methods.

In short, stop blaming the fire department’s equipment only, and tackle the source. Too much of our architectural history has already been destroyed with too much focus being placed on blaming one person or the other. We must all take responsibility, chip in and demand better in all areas of our development.

Yours faithfully,
Bernard Ramsay

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