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Fire officials address criticism of Youth Hostel response

Orin Smith

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015. Chrisbert Garcia Reporting: In the wake of the second fire for this year at the Princess Royal Youth Hostel, the fire department has been under heavy scrutiny after what is said to be slow hostel fireresponse time and unpreparedness upon arriving at the scene in Rockville, but could they have done better?

Station manager at the Belize National Fire Service, Orin Smith, spoke to the media yesterday and explained that when his team arrived on the scene at 3:05 p.m., the roof of the structure had already collapsed and the building was in a “free burning phase”, so they immediately went into operation, extinguishing the blaze.

That was not done without setbacks though, as the fire trucks ran out of water and a nearby creek was unable to refill the tanks, so a third truck had to be dispatched and managed to finish the job; although not without tragedy as three young girls perished inside.

orin smithIn relation to the response time, Smith said that they received the call at 2:34 p.m. and immediately responded but an approximate 13-15 speed bumps from his station to the location, caused the truck to take about half an hour.

Smith says the reason for that is because the truck needs to really slow down at each of those bumps to avoid bursting the water tanks and when asked if the girls perished from the smoke or the fire, he said that most likely, in that small area they were  in, the flames killed them while they were unconscious from the smoke.

We note that out of a total of three fires at the hostel, this is the first time one ended in fatality and the previous two were determined to be arson. The fire department has requested that a fire hydrant be placed at the hostel.

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