A most disgraceful situation – No fire hydrants in Georgetown

Also read this update from the Mayor of Georgetown: Who’s responsible for the fire hydrants?

A most disgraceful situation – No fire hydrants in Georgetown


Every city has some basic things because they are often the most populated places in a country.  There are therefore hospitals, the leading schools and colleges, the other training institutions, the fire service, the police headquarters, and of course, the largest municipal markets and the best stores.

Georgetown, Guyana, is no different. It has all these things. It houses the headquarters of the various government offices and is the hub of the transportation sector. However, Georgetown is like no other city. It cannot rid itself of its garbage because the city council is perennially cash-strapped and it has no working fire hydrant.

About five decades ago there were fire hydrants that not only stood at various locations on the streets but they worked. In the event of fire it was not unusual to see the firefighters racing to these hydrants and attaching their hoses.    

A major fire broke out in the city early Tuesday morning. The call came in to the Guyana Fire Service shortly after 5:00 am and the tenders went racing to the scene. When they arrived at the scene on Regent Street, a small store was on fire. The firemen went into action, but it was not long before the water in the tenders ran out. The crew had to rush for another water source.

The city was once known for its canals, but over the past few decades these became clogged with garbage and silt from the Demerara River. Fortunately the climate is such that they always have water and it was to this that the firefighters turned when the fire continued to rage.

But this need not have been the case and one must blame the Minister responsible for Water. Each year in the national budget we see allocations for the water sector. These allocations would be for things like alum to purify the city water, and for wells in new housing areas. Millions of dollars are always bandied about and during the debate the nation is regaled with these facts about how much money the government spends.

Spending money is one thing, but spending it where it is needed is another. For as long as one can remember there has been no expenditure for the delivery of water in the city. The Home Affairs Minister has been seeking and getting funding for more and more firefighting equipment, but that is not matched by the support expected from the Ministry responsible for the delivery of water.

Inside the Shelter Belt there are hundreds of hydrants procured at a time when there was talk to revamp the hydrants in the country. At the time the entity was the Georgetown Sewerage and Water Commissioners. The government later delinked that entity from City Hall and assumed full responsibility.

Those hydrants are still lying in the Shelter Belt compound, as useless as taking a snow cone to an Eskimo.

Surely, the Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali, must have been aware of the situation with the fire hydrants. In recent times there have been a number of fires in the city, and on every occasion the fire fighters could not rely on the pieces of iron that once served as fire hydrants.
He has made no effort to deal with the situation, choosing instead to develop housing schemes and still failing to install hydrants in these new housing schemes. Surely, any administrator would recognize the need for firefighting capabilities in the city, but Minister Ali seems not to be in that category.

When asked about hydrants his predecessor said that establishing the hydrants was the responsibility of the fire service. The fire service said that the Housing Ministry is responsible. The then President Bharrat Jagdeo did say that some focus would be placed on replacing the existing hydrants. He did nothing other than talk.

The result is that four buildings went up in flames and a man died of a heart attack as he watched what he had worked all his life to secure, go up in flames. Those flames also trapped four Chinese nationals in one of the buildings and they had to be rescued.

The people who lost their property cannot think of suing the authorities for their failure to have hydrants. But it is an abomination that a city in these modern times has no fire hydrants.

Also read this update from the Mayor of Georgetown: Who’s responsible for the fire hydrants?

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  • Deen  On August 3, 2012 at 1:40 am

    A city without adequate functional fire hydrants is dangerously hydrated and is at risk for fire disasters. Obviously, there is a lack of commonsense not to make them a priority.

  • Gloria Y Fredericks  On August 3, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Looking in from the outside, it is obvious that there was a concerted effort by the Jagdeo administration and the current Ramotar administration to let Georgetown crumble, for reasons known only to them. Could politics be the cause of this gross neglect, perhaps since GT appears not to be a PPP stronghold? Their decision to allow the “garden” city deteriorate to the extent that basic and essential services become unavailable, to allow the physical appearance of the city to literally go to the dogs, and to abdicate their responsibilities to the citizens is mind boggling. If they are incapable of running the country,why do they not step down to allow a more capable administration to hold the reigns? These two administrations have failed Guyana and Guyanese miserably and should be ashamed of themselves.

  • wycs  On August 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    What rubbish is being written above. As far as I am aware, the The Mayor and City Council is responsible for setting up the fire hydrants. Why blame the Govt for everything.

    • Phillsop  On August 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm

      they cannot install fire hydrants without money. Let the Government free up some of the money that they have stolen from the people of Guyana

  • Gloria Y Fredericks  On August 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Are you implying that the city which happens to be the Capitol is a solely and independently funded agency, and that the Government bears no responsibility in allocating funds for basic services? If the office of the MCC receives property taxes etc, is the amount that is collected sufficient enough to do everything that is necessary to effectively execute it’s day to day operations? What’s wrong with the city receiving funding from the State? FYI in developed countries, local governments receive funding from both their Federal AND State governments. Guyana should be no different.

  • Dave  On August 4, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Regardless who is responsible, this form of neglect puts the lives of innocent citizens at risk. Isn’t the responsibility of governments regardless of what level, to protect its citizens? The ‘land of many waters’ is a oxymoron if there is no water to even protect its people. The great Georgetown, the many canals and parks, the historical monuments and buildings of the past, where is your beauty today?Rise up again Georgetown and seize the pride of what had made you great in eyes of many around the world; clean, beautiful and accessible.

  • Ron. Persaud  On August 5, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Georgetown once had the reputation of being the most modern capital of all the Caribbean countries. This ‘modernity’ was attributed to updated reconstruction after major fires. (Remember the “Black Fridays” of 1913,1945 and 1951?). Timber construction added ‘fuel to the fires’ – if you will pardon the pun. On more than one occasion I was an interested onlooker when firemen performed a drill after their response to a small fire or false alarm. The officer in charge would do a critique of his men’s performance at the end.
    The arrival of a new fire engine would be a feature in the newspaper and an irresistible challenge to myself and two or three friends as to who would first see it. I did – once and the licence plate, PL 412, is indelibly branded on my memory.
    I wonder if any reader could confirm the following story.
    After the Brickdam Church burned (down) in 1913, the timber that was salvaged was used to build St. Mary’s school opposite on Camp street. My father was explaining to me that in a fire, timber could be more dependable than steel. When a timber fire is put out, the unburned parts of the structure could still be used. Steel would conduct heat throughout the structure thereby compromising its integrity. It was then that he related how 6×6 joists and beams from the church were ‘re-sawed’ to 4×4 and smaller stock used to build the school. It astounds me to this day where and how my “old man” acquired his formidable body of general knowledge.
    And so, I really struggle with the image of Georgetown without a single functioning fire hydrant???

  • wycs  On August 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    The City Council is not doing their job. If they were, they would have much more money to install not only the Hydrants but clean the city of all the garbage. Many people are biased and do not want to blame the City Council for not performing. There are Bylaws in the Council where they can go and collect money from Tax Payers, even the big buisnesses who refuse to pay, through the courts, but this is not done. Instead, employees are stealing under the Mayor’s nose, having phantom workers and paying themselves double salaries, Yes I maintain that the City Council is responsible for installing these hydrants and they could have done it if they had buisness accumen and the job of the Council was being done honestly and properly. A younger Mayor should be installed and have the work of the City going. Delinquent tax payers should be brought to court and if they cannot pay, their property Tax, their properties should be sold. This used to be done in the Colonial times; why should it be different now? Like anyone who lives in this beautiful country, I am also peeved to see what is going on. Of course we need fire hydrants which should have been installed a long time ago as properties are in danger of fire.

  • Cyril balkaran  On August 15, 2012 at 10:12 am

    In Guyana and in Georgetown the Mayor holds the responsibility for the City of Georgetown. It would appear that he has resigned unto himself and tells himself that what he could not achieve as the PM under the PNC administration, he should not attempt to do now that he is in the opposition forces. He could not care if the entire city burns down. Recent fires in Regent street and elsewhere demonstrates the case. What was not destroyed in 1962 can be destroyed now. In anycase this city only recently observed its 200 years as a City Garden or otherwise. The Us Ambassador was on tape helping to clean up this great city.

  • Ron. Persaud  On September 16, 2012 at 10:06 am

    I do not concur with the suggestion “A younger Mayor should be installed”; but I certainly feel that a mayor of the caliber of Mr. Archie Codrington is sorely needed.
    There may be others that of whom I do not know.
    In which case I sincerely apologize for my lapse.

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