Know Your Public Institutions
With Muhammed Sailu Bah
Welcome to another edition of know your public institutions column which seeks to create awareness on the nature and work of public institutions in the Gambia. This edition is an exclusive interview with the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services (GFRS) Public Relation Officer Muhammed Drammeh on the, history, work of GFRS and services they rendered.
Foroyaa: Can you please tell us a brief history about the GFRS?
In 1968 Cadet Fire Officer Z.B. King was appointed, in 1978 Mr. King became Chief Fire Officer. In 1979 Cadet Fire Officer Roger Bakurin was appointed and in 1982, the Fire service became a Department under the Ministry of the interior. In 1993 the fire brigade becomes the Gambia Fire and Ambulance Service and now the Gambia Fire and Rescue Service. In 1999 Mr. king was appointed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Deputy Chief Fire Officer Roger became Chief Fire Officer on the 1 June, 1999.
Foroyaa: What Services do you offer to the general public?
The Gambia fire and Rescue Services is the department tasked with the responsibility of saving lives and property in the country. We save lives of both humans and animals from wells, rivers, on top of trees, buildings, from crash airplanes, from devastating car accidents. We rescue from toilets and also we drain water from flooded compounds or premises. Below are our primary duties.
GFRS PRO: The Gambia fire and rescue service perform four major roles in the Gambia.
- TO SAVE LIFE
- TO PREVENT PEOPLE’S PROPERTY FROM BEING DESTROYED BY FIRE.
- TO RENDER HUMANITARIAN SERVICES
- TO HELP IN THE PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT.
The Gambia Fire and Rescue Services saves all kinds of life ranging from human to animals, domestic to wild, from wells, traffic accidents, at sea etc.
TO PREVENT PEOPLE’S PROPERTY FROM BEING DESTROYED BY FIRE
The fire service is responsible of preventing people’s property from being destroyed by fire this is why the fire fighters have the following duties to PREVENT, PROTECT and RESPOND.
In other to prevent fire out breaks the fire safety unit is going out to meet the people in their communities and schools to educate them on the common causes of fire and their prevention. Since we cannot handle it along as a department we hope the Gambian people can join us to save our property.
When fire occur and fire fighters are informed early they protect property that are not yet involved in the fire to prevent the fire from spreading to cause further disaster.
RENDER HUMANITARIAN SERVICES
Fire fighters render these services during disasters such as flood, earthquakes, building collapse etc.
The Gambia Fire and Rescue Services also have paramedic clinics in five out of the eleven fire stations in the country. Clinics are found at the headquarters in Banjul. Churchill’s town , Bansang, Jarra soma and Farafenni. At these clinics we perform blood test: HB, BF, WBC COUNT, VDRL AND SICKLE CELL, URINALYSIS, HCG AND DRESSING. Any were you are in the country you can access our free medical services
GFRCS medical personnel conducting a test
Foroyaa: it is often claimed that the GFRS does not respond early when a fire incident occurs and in most of the Cases when they arrive they don’t have enough water to extinguish the Fire.
GFRS PRO: we face lot of Challenges that causes our delay in reaching at destinations where fire out- break occurs.
1) Most of the people in the Gambia who make calls to the fire service for help use the 118 service which is set to all the telephones of the various telephone companies in the country as an emergency number for the fire service; but we have some problems in using it because a recorded tune is set to this number that tells the caller “this is the fire service your number is recorded please hold on” and the message will be repeated two or three times. Some people misunderstand this and concluded by saying I call the fire service and they ask me to hold on while my house is burning, we want people to know that when you call this number you should exercise patient for about 30 seconds before you will be connected to the fire service who will ask your name, were you calling from and the type of fire so to avoid all these, here are the direct emergency numbers of all the fire stations in the country:
SERRE KUNDA 4372707
JARRA SOMA 5531608
2)- Most of the times you see fire fighters going round over and over in a town, this happen due to the wrong information given to fire fighters by a caller and false calls. For example someone will call to report a fire incident. But instead of telling the fire fighters the exact location of the fire, the person will just tell us fire at Banjul and hang on. But where in Banjul is the question, so we are urging people to give street names, compound numbers and even important places around the area for us to easily find the place and give help to those in danger.
3) – In many cases, a fire out- break will be reported to a fire station and fire fighters will leave their stations but will arrive very late or found the whole place being burnt down. This is caused by
i) Traffic obstruction drivers refusing to leave the way for us to pass
- ii) Some people in town use the highway and put sand or gravel which obstructs us because our vehicle cannot pass through and thus causes delay.
Many Gambians believes that fire fighters goes out fighting fire without water in their tanks, this is so because many people are amused with the size of the vehicle thinking that the vehicle carries a lot of water because of its size; not knowing that the vehicle is divided into three parts, the crew cabin were six (6) fire fighters sit, the middle section were we have all our equipment stored and the pump bay at the rear were a pump is fitted for lifting and discharging water. These vehicles are called starters in a sense that they are designed to carry fire fighters and their firefighting equipment from the fire station to the fire scene. The thousand liters in the tank will be used to start fighting the fire whilst others will connect from a hydrant to the vehicle for continuous firefighting. The tank capacity is limited to a thousand liters (1000) because. If the vehicle is carrying lots of water the speed it run at will be reduced and it can cause the vehicle to fall down as water is heavy and not stable too.
The fire brigade uses four (4) different sizes of houses in firefighting, and they are 90 millimeters in diameter, 70 millimeters in diameter, 45 millimeters in diameter and the 19 millimeters in diameter delivery hose respectively. The nature of the fire will determine the type of hose to be used .When we use the 90 millimeter in diameter hose which is the biggest size, it takes us two munities ten seconds to empty the tank without connecting to a hydrant and the thousand liters will be finish because it discharges 450 liters of water per minute.
When we use the 70 millimeter in diameter it takes us three minutes to empty the tank without a hydrant. The 45 millimeter in diameter last for four minutes to empty the tank and the 19 millimeter in diameter which is the smallest will last for six minutes to empty the tank because it discharges 220 liters of water per minute. Because of this limited time we spend when we arrive at fire scene some people concluded by saying that we came with half thank or without water in our tank. This is what we want the people to know, the hydrants that we should use as a backup is limited and still people abuse them and making them unavailable to fire men.
Foroyaa: can you tell us some of your achievements?
GFRS PRO: Some of the achievements made by the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services:
The Gambia Fire and Rescue Services after being established as a department of its own, has achieved a lot under the dynamic leadership of Mr. Roger Bakurin. The Gambia Fire and Rescue Services (G. F.R.S) is now a well-structured department which is now headed by a Chief Fire Officer Roger Bakurin, who is assisted by a Deputy Chief Fire Officer (D.C.F.O) and six other Assistant Chiefs (A.C) each heading a different section within the department.
The Gambia Fire and Rescue Services have moved from having two Fire Stations in the Country which is Banjul fire station (Headquarters) and Airport Fire Station to having
Eleven Fire Stations
Six Sea Rescue Stations
Five Paramedic Clinics
all over the country. Today the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services has employed more than one thousand personnel of which 25% are Female and recently, we have recruited the largest batch of 275 recruits, and January this year the Fire Service has promoted over 250 personnel ranging from Leading Fire Fighters, Sub Officers, Station Officers, Assistant Divisional Officers, Divisional Officers, Senior Divisional Officers and Assistant Chief Fire Officers respectively.
The Gambia Fire and Rescue Services has made lots of achievements in building the capacity of its personnel, every year the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services personnel are trained by Avon Fire Fighters from the U.K to enhance good service delivery in all aspect of our jobs. In 2010 Station Officer Yaya Fanneh and Station Officer Binta Kinteh were sent to Malaysia to study STRUCTURAL FIRE FIGHTING. In July 2010 Station Officer Bunja Keita and Sub Officer Kaddy Mendy also studied in Malaysia. 2011 A.D.O Yaya Sonko and Leading Fire Fighter Mohamadou Drammeh were sent to India to study Disaster risk management and mitigation. The Gambia Fire and Rescue Services also sent Ass. Divisional Officer Ebrima .Y. Sonko, and Ass. Divisional Officer Odel Mansal to Serbia to study CHEMICALS and BIO CHEMICAL WEAPONS. All these people are back and are now sharing the information throughout the brigade, so that together we can better save the lives and property of all Gambians. Presently we have many graduates in the fire brigade from the University of the Gambia and most of the high institutions in the country.
Presently we also have 19 personnel currently undergoing studies in most of the high institutions we have in the country.
Foroyaa: What are your future plans?
GFRS: The Gambia Fire and Rescue Services have lots of plans in the future ranging from training of staffs, building new fire and rescue stations, promotions of staffs etc. Some of the plans include:
To complete the Farafenni Fire and Rescue Station Junior Staff Quarters
- To construct Fire and rescue Station in Kerewan and Kaur. ( NBR & CRR respectively )
- To build a twin Station in Gunjur i.e. a Fire Station and a Sea Rescue Unit both under one roof.
- To build a Regional Fire Service Training School/ Institute in Mandinari Village
Next Edition Continuation on Common causes of fire and how to prevent it as well some challenges GFRCS faces.