FIRE BRIGADE NOT ADEQUATELY RESOURCED
It is incredible that the Government have seen it fit to apologise to the people of Algeciras for the consequences of the port fire last week but they have not apologised to the people of Gibraltar who were the ones in the front line and most directly affected, says the Opposition.
Adding in its statement that It now appears that the Government have plenty to say sorry for following their indirect admission that Gibraltar’s stocks of fire-fighting foam were not enough to deal with the fire. In its statement yesterday the Government said that it had “already taken steps to ensure that Gibraltar’s stocks of fire fighting foam are greatly increased to ensure that we have enough to provide for our own needs in the future…” The clear implication of that is that the stock held at the time that the fire broke out was not enough.
The Opposition understands from its own sources that part of Gibraltar’s original foam stock was old RAF/MOD stock which was passed on to the Fire Brigade when it expired, given the more stringent regulations of the MOD in this regard. While it is possible to argue that Gibraltar cannot possibly maintain the resources to cover for every conceivable natural or man-made disaster, the fact is that having the contingency for an oil fire in a bunkering port is not something out of this world. There has been a clear failure on the part of the Government to adequately resource the Fire Brigade.
In its own statement, the Government acknowledged that the extinguishing of a fuel fire requires a plan based on the sustained attack of the fire with sufficient quantities of fire-fighting foam. It also says that “as every housewife knows, you do not put out a fuel fire with water.” It is obvious that the Minister responsible for the Fire Brigade Yvette del Agua had not appreciated how important it was to have kept adequate stocks of fire-fighting form in reserve.
The news that Gibraltar now finally has such stocks is therefore a case of better late than never. There is no doubt that the fire would have been put out much earlier with more foam. The people of Gibraltar and the emergency services would have been saved the considerable stress and pressure that ensued as the fire continued for hours on end. The question that needs to be answered is who is going to assume political responsibility for this lack of resources.