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Coconut Grove fire: Sack Chief Fire Officer – GNFS commanders

Albert Brown Gaisie Chief Fire Officer, Dr. Albert Brown Gaisie

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 Source: Newsday

Angered by the ‘abysmal’ firefighting prowess exhibited by the fire personnel on the ground during last Saturday’s inferno that raised down two edifices in the premises of the Coconut Grove Hotel in Accra, top commanders of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) are asking government to immediately relieve the Chief Fire Officer, Brown Gaisie, off his post.

If that is not done, the Chief Fire Officer will drag the image of the service into a complete state of embarrassment.

The commanders, unanimous in their refrain that “Brown Gaisie must go” catalogued to this paper a day after the inferno, the reason why ten fire fighter, instead of two, were deployed to quenched the fire that started around 5:00pm.

Chiefly amongst the reasons, the one of the commanders whom we garb with anonymity because their rules of engagement does not permit them to talk to the media, said, “Morale in the service is very low. I was on the grounds to witness thing for myself and when the saw the reluctance with which the personnel were going about their duties you could clearly tell their morale was low”.

Another commander, who was visibly furious about the public backlash the Fire Service has come under, told News Day that, “Brown Gaisie’s expertise is only in talking, and apart from that he is empty. Look, the drivers in the service buy fuel from their pocket the fuel their vehicles because they are given meager GHC150 fuel coupons for the whole month. So in emergency cases like we had yesterday (last Saturday), they use their monies to fuel the car”.

He also observed that from the Headquarters of the Fire Service to the place of fire is only two-hundred meters, which meant that on a normal day they could have used just two fire tenders and in no time the fire would have been contained but the reverse was the case. T took the inexperienced personnel more house to quench the fire.

“The Chief Fire Officer has transferred all the experienced fire fighters to remote villages where they can’t challenge is decisions. Many of the firefighters that went to the hotel to fight the fire were learners who did not know or understand the rudiments of firefighting”, the commanders told this paper via telephone interview.

Meanwhile, The Chief Fire Officers has since Sunday not responded to calls from this paper nor called back to respond to the allegations by the commanders.

Worst still, Groupe Nduom, the mother company where fire gutted two of its buildings has lambasted the Public Relations Officer of the Service Billy Anaglate for hopping from one radio station to the other, and blaming the company for the inferno.

Read Groupe Nduom’s statement

The Ghana Fire Service can do better than this!

Groupe Nduom has been very measured in our public comments on last Saturday’s fire that swept through a section of Coconut Grove Regency Hotel in Accra. As a responsible corporate entity with international standing, Groupe Nduom believes that rather than taking the Ghana Fire Service (GFS) to task for shortcomings demonstrated, we should support efforts aimed at determining how to resource the GFS better to achieve optimum results.

Groupe Nduom is however compelled to react to some negative comments made by Prince Billy Anaglate, the Deputy PRO of the Ghana National Fire Service. Mr. Anaglate has in media interviews blamed our company for not putting in place basic fire prevention measures at the affected Groupe companies.

For example, he told Citi FM, an Accra based Radio station that Groupe Nduom had not put anything in place to protect the company in terms of fire safety. Groupe Nduom does not only find Mr Anaglate’s assertion unfortunate but pedestrian and reckless. We do not know who he is trying to protect with his blame game. A PRO’s job cannot be to peddle lies and paint others in a negative light.

He should not test our resolve on the issue; we have lost millions of Ghana Cedis as a result of last Saturday’s fire. We do not need the state organization whose job is to assist those facing fire accidents to rather put pepper in our wounds. There is no doubt that we lost a lot through the unprofessional handling of the fire by the GFS and we were silently albeit painfully counting our losses. But we cannot allow our reputation to be dragged in the mud by someone who obviously has not taken time to get his facts straight.

We realized through our ordeal that the GFS faces obvious logistical problems. This, we believe should form the basis of a broader discourse with the view of avoiding similar fire situations in the future. In effect, we the most affected entity have tried to avoid any form of emotional and parochial discussion of the issue.

But for Mr. Anaglate to suggest that our offices at the Coconut Grove Regency Hotel did not have fire detectors and extinguishers at the time of the incident is something we cannot allow to pass without correction. We emphasise that every facility at the Coconut Grove Regency compound has fire detectors and extinguishers. Ironically, we bought these equipment from the Ghana Fire Service itself and we have receipts to that effect.

Coconut Grove Regency Hotel has a standing relationship with the Ghana Fire Service where they (Fire Service) take our staff through periodic firefighting measures. We want to tell Mr. Anaglate that we have a GFS certificate commending us for taking up the GFS orientations. Amansan Television (ATV), one of our offices that was gutted by the fire last Saturday has a special fire segment on its ‘Anopa Bosuo’ morning show programme that he appears on to educate people on Fire Safety measures. So what is he talking about?

Perhaps we should not be surprised at the latest spin by Mr. Anaglate. This is a man who has since day one of the incident sought alibi in many lame and ungrounded lies. First he said the Fire Service got hint of the fire incident through a commercial taxi driver when in fact the distress call to the office of the Fire Service was made by a staff of Groupe Nduom Corporate Affairs.

After falling flat to that obvious lie, he tried albeit unsuccessful to impugn that they got to the fire site just three minutes after report by the so-called faceless taxi driver. The truth however has emerged that the Fire Service personnel got to the scene well over twenty minutes after getting the distressed call from our employee.

He has also wrongfully suggested that the generator at the Coconut Grove Regency Hotel was running and that resulted in the widespread of the blazing fire. Indeed the generator at the hotel was immediately put off when the fire started.

In any case, if the Fire personnel were up to the task, why didn’t they put off the fire when it started as something small at only one of the 12 offices that the fire finally destroyed?

Unfortunately for him, many Ghanaians watched the blazing fire live as they went round their work rather amateurishly. We have many videos that show how it took almost two hours for the fire to spread while GFS people watched and did nothing to help.

We still insist that the Ghana Fire Service needs help. Some weeks ago at Teshie-Nungua in the Greater Accra Region, some four Fire Service personnel got injured in a fire combating operation. They were made to take a loan of GHC1000.00 to cater for their hospital expenses. Where is the motivation for anyone to offer his all in any firefighting mission?

Again we want to point out that 20 officers of their National Headquarters share seven (7) firefighting uniforms in operations similar to what was experienced at the Coconut Grove Hotel. Also, during their abortive fire combat at the Coconut Grove Regency Hotel, fire fighters had only four oxygen masks which got finished within a matter of 20 minutes.

As a result, the officers could not enter the building to put out the fire. How can we expect personnel of the Service to offer their best in any firefighting situation? The GFS needs help and their PRO will do the service well by focusing on this rather than seeking to blame victims of their inadequacies.

We suggest that Mr. Anaglate should learn the art of Public Relations better rather than resorting to propaganda that in the end only exposes the weaknesses of his employer.

Richmond Duke Keelson

Groupe Nduom Corporate Affairs

Source: Newsday
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