Nearly six months after the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) proudly announced that it had rehabilitated over 300 fire hydrants in Georgetown, the public utility company is refusing to respond to questions about one hydrant it failed to fix outside the Camp Street jail.
Following the fire which destroyed the Georgetown Prison just over a week ago, Stabroek News visited the surrounding area and was informed of an un-serviced hydrant along the prison wall. One resident explained that for years he has asked both the Guyana Prison Service and GWI to place a marker at the location without success. The area remains covered by wooden slates.
The resident noted that during the fire he identified the area to the responding firemen, who had run out of water.
“You know is when they know about the fire hydrant there? Last night when I told them about it…GWI had to come and clear it with a key…they didn’t know it was there. They say is only one hydrant they got but I keep telling them that there was another one there. You know how much times I ask them to come and put a pole and come and clean it out but is only last night they come and find it. They say they come and put a pole there but up to now they in come…they ain’t servicing nothing,” the resident had lamented.
Contacted for comment on the resident’s claims, Public Relations Officer for GWI Leana Bradshaw said that the agency did not wish to comment.
For years, fire hydrants had been in a state of disrepair, limiting the ability of the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) to access water. Their rehabilitation existed in a state of limbo, with several agencies including the GFS, GWI and City Hall denying responsibility for their maintenance.
However, GWI, under Chief Executive Officer Dr Richard Van West-Charles, started rehabilitation. He had been reported in February as saying that there were approximately 800 hydrants in the city whose locations were gradually being discovered to facilitate the process of rehabilitation.
According to the Government Information Agency (GINA) report, the CEO had told his managers at a training workshop that rehabilitation efforts would extend across Guyana to allow the fire service to access water from new and refurbished fire hydrants. “We have to work too with the Ministry of Communities’ housing department to ensure that as new communities emerge, part of that planning process is to ensure that hydrants are in the system, and that water is available in case of fire to protect the residents within the communities,” the CEO reportedly said.
Regional Manager for Georgetown Curtis Niles was also reported as stating that GWI was moving to rehabilitate fire hydrants in other areas outside of central Georgetown, including in Turkeyen and South Georgetown.
Niles said that GWI had placed fire hydrants at Agricola and in front of all GWI production centres, “so that the fire service would have easy access in the event that there is a fire in those areas.”
He added that GWI was also working on a Geographic Information System (GIS) to track and identify the location of fire hydrants.
“We want to have those hydrants on the GIS, so that the fire service would know and more of our population in Georgetown would know where our hydrants are, and we’re also working with the fire service, the government and other agencies, towards having critical areas equipped with fire hydrants,” Niles stated.
Yet on Sunday, July 9, while the prison burned and debris scorched the surrounding homes, residents reported that both the marked and unmarked hydrants on Bent Street were not readily accessible and required the intervention of GWI staff. This intervention was, according to residents, received hours later.