Coast Guard, Fire Service joint effort saves trawler
By Kim Lucas
September 25, 2002
A team of fire fighters, deployed primarily from the army's flagship, GDFS Essequibo, joined efforts with the Guyana Fire Service on Monday evening and managed to save a burning trawler.
The vessel, King of Kings, which is owned by a Mr Rajkumar, was reportedly moored at McDoom, East Bank Demerara, when a passing pilot observed that it was on fire and reported the matter to the Coast Guard at Ruimveldt.
One of the ranks, who was instrumental in extinguishing the two-hour blaze, told Stabroek News yesterday that the inferno damaged the vessel's engine room and cabin.
"When we reached down there, the fire service was already there [so] we coordinated our efforts with the fire service... The fire was all over - in the engine room and cabin. The ceiling, the cabin wall and the packing in the engine room were burnt [and] nobody seemed to know how the fire started," Senior Petty Officer, Alston Williams, explained.
The blaze was apparently spotted some time after 6:00 pm by a Pilot Humphrey, who, in turn, called Commander Terrence Pile of the Coast Guard.
"He called and made us aware that there was this trawler - the King of Kings - moored at McDoom Village that seemed to be [on fire]. Based on that information, we put together a team of fire fighters..." The Coast Guard team responded with specialised equipment that is generally used for firefighting on board ships, Pile stated.
The commander explained that the team members used their compressed air brain apparatus, which enabled them to cope with the engine room blaze.
"Once there is an engine room fire, there is lots of smoke and nobody can go down there unless they are wearing breathing apparatus. So that is the one specialised bit of equipment that allowed them to fight and extinguish that fire," the commander stated.
In the process, he said, one of the petty officers received some minor burns to his feet, but other than that, it was an incident-free operation.
Although the request for assistance did not come directly from the owner of the vessel, Pile pointed out that it was good that the information did reach them. "There are so many things the Coast Guard is equipped and trained to do, but we cannot be involved unless we are aware... timely passage of information is very critical."
Engine room fires, he said, are very critical because they can cripple a boat's mobility. Once certain parts of a vessel are destroyed, the boat can take in water and sink. "Even when men are fighting the fire, you always have the problem to balance between the amount of water you use to fight the fire and to keep the boat afloat. The firefighters have to be ready to pump out the water from the boat as they put it in to out the fire."
The Coast Guard assists in reinforcing safety regulations aboard vessels, in support to other agencies, such as the Transport and Harbours Department.
Pile could not say, though, whether the vessel that had caught fire on Monday evening had the required safety equipment.
"We don't know if it is a vessel that was normally used, or whether it was being repaired of restored. So I can't say whether they were breaching any regulations."