Ironically, the fire started mere metres away from where the original Arima Fire Station had been situated on Green Street adjacent to Woodford Street. That station is now derelict with the Arima Fire Station being relocated to the O’Meara Industrial Estate.
It was reported that the fire began at 5 pm and was brought under control two hours later. Raj K Singh’s was one of the oldest businesses in the eastern borough.
Arima Mayor George Hadeed who was at the scene said this was the third fire in Arima in the past year. He said since the removal of the fire station from the heart of Arima, the response time of fire tenders is about 25 to 30 minutes because there was a lot of traffic coming in to Arima, which hampers fire tenders from getting in.
“I know the old fire station is a bit small, but maybe they could look at that as a sub-station, but the town centre needs a fire station or a sub station to take care of such disasters. There are hundreds of businesses in Arima, and we have not even heard whether they even plan to rebuild the fire station,” Hadeed said.
Newsday photographer Angelo Marcelle, who was at the scene, said there were three fire tenders and one water tanker. He could not say whether all three tenders were from the Arima Station.
Assistant secretary, North West Division of the Fire Service Second Division Association, leo Ramkissoon, said it was necessary to have the fire station where it had been originally. “We know that the movement of the personnel to the Malabar temporary facility is to facilitate the rebuilding of a fire station in Arima. That has been over a year now and no work has begun to date.
“The residents and business community in Arima are at risk because of the increased response time to the heart of Arima from Malabar. The council and the original designers of the borough would have placed the station there for a reason because of the density of the population there,” he said.
Ramkissoon claimed that Arima had one fire tender, while in some fire stations the tenders and trucks were defective. “We are calling on the Minister of National Security (Carl Alfonso) to pay some attention in terms of the acquisition of appliances, parts to repair appliances and other tools firemen need to do their job,” he said.
Ramkissoon said if Arima needed assistance to fight a fire they would have to rely on Tunapuna and Sangre Grande Fire Stations. “Keep in mind this is the dry season and stations across the country would be out on bush fires everyday so it depends on who is available,” he said.
However, when contacted yesterday, Alfonso said he had been informed by the National Operations Centre (NON) that the matter was under control and that there were three fire tenders at the scene.
“A helicopter from the NOC is doing surveillance and sending reports back to the operations room, so the matter is being taken care of, so any reports that there are no fire tenders are erroneous,” he said. The cause of the blaze was still being investigated up to press time.