The Chairman of the Queen’s College (QC) Board of Directors has apologised and accepted responsibility for the fire that was set at the QC field on Saturday, although he related that no instruction was passed for the grass to be lit.
On Saturday, firefighters were called to the QC ground to tend to a grassfire, the smoke from which severely affected the surrounding areas, including the Georgetown Public Hospital, and hindered visibility on the roadways.
Chairman Alfred Granger, at a press briefing yesterday, while relating that he was still unaware who set the fire, stated that no instruction was passed by him or anyone from the school for such action to be taken. He did, however, relieve the workers of any blameworthiness.
“Let me say this—I want to apologise unreservedly to the people who were inconvenienced—I understand there were some people in the hospital who got some smoke problems and so on…and that’s an embarrassment, but it’s also something we regret terribly,” Granger said.
“But this is not a crime of commission—I don’t want people to think that the workers were instructed to do this, nobody was instructed to do it.
The workers who were here and doing this ground obviously worked very, very hard, because they came on Thursday, they cut and now the ground has been harrowed and all that. In two short days, we’ve gotten where we are today. So I want to hold the workers blameless.
I actually want to take responsibility for what happened because I did not pass a clear instruction that this should not happen. Even though we were initially aware two days before that somebody was thinking of this, I did not pass a clear instruction, I dropped the ball on this completely,” Granger stated.
When asked whether he had spoken with the workmen to make enquiries into who actually set the fire, Granger related that the only consultation he has had on the matter was yesterday morning, when the Principal would have provided an update. Responding to a report in the Sunday Stabroek that the school’s Principal Jackie Benn had allegedly told firemen that permission was received from the Ministry of Education to set the blaze, Granger said that Benn has denied making such a statement. He further stated that she was “completely unaware” of what was occurring until she saw the fire and heard the fire tenders approaching.
He noted that his first knowledge of the event in question was when he received a call from a reporter from this newspaper who informed him that there was a fire at the field. Stating that they did not know how it occurred, he related that he had actually intended to explore using the grass to create mulch for the school’s Agriculture department.
“On Thursday morning, I got a note from a friend of mine asking what we’re doing with the grass and suggesting that we create a mulch or something. And my note at about 7.45 on Thursday was that we were going to—I was going to talk to Agri department and see where we could do that,” he related.
“I again want to apologise unreservedly and to say that something like this will never happen again, because we have a great Agriculture Department, and this is a great opportunity for us to create a great set of mulch for our department and we dropped the ball on it,” Granger said.
The Chairman assured that in six months to a year, the field will be fully utilised, and indicated that among the Board’s goals is to have a synthetic track placed on the field so the students can have maximum use of the ground.
Now that the grass has been cut and the ground harrowed, the next step is the levelling of the field, which has been slightly delayed due to recent weather.
Granger related that the Board is considering purchasing grass to place on the field once levelling is done, which he said will take approximately two months to “settle.” They are also looking into hiring more grounds men and purchasing a larger grass cutter.
Although work seems to be moving along quite quickly on the ground, the students will not be able to utilize the field for this year’s school sports, because of the two-month period required for the regrowth of the grass.
The sporting events will, therefore, be held at the GCC ground, Bourda this year.