Bordelais fire raises safety concerns

News of a fire at Bordelais Correctional Facility was met with much panic by members of the public on Friday, May 4. St Lucians feared for the worst as they considered the havoc of escaped prisoners and the safety of those very same inmates housed within the facility. No one knew yet the severity of the blaze, or the extent of damage caused and news reports just didn’t seem to be coming in quick enough!
The STAR contacted prison director Hilary Herman on Friday evening who managed to calm things down by assuring this newspaper, other media houses and by extension members of the public that there was no reason for alarm as everything was under control.
Deputy fire chief Lambert Charles said on Monday that his team received a call at 6:20pm on Friday evening to which the Dennery Fire Station responded. The Micoud and Castries Fire Stations provided support for the mission, but according to the deputy, the team from the Dennery station were first on the scene. Upon arrival they found the facility’s admissions block smoke engulfed.
“The admissions block is not part of the main area where the prisoners are held,” Charles stated. “It is a separate block altogether and that block was fully engulfed with smoke. They were able to enter the building wearing breathing apparatus, find the fire and extinguish it.”
Charles says investigations on the night pointed towards a faulty air conditioning unit in the admissions block where the fire may have started.
“We were able to confirm that the following day when the fire service investigations team along with the police investigations teams went down there and confirmed the fire started in that general area,” Charles said. “The damage so far, what we’ve been able to identify, the room where the fire started the contents were completely destroyed. The roof was severely damaged as well and there was heavy sooting in several other areas in that building. That building also housed the kitchen, admissions area, the visiting room, the male and female staff quarters and the mess hall. There was heavy smoke damage as a result of the fire.”
Charles congratulated the fire teams for expertly carrying out their mission.
Speaking to the STAR on Tuesday prison director Hilary Herman said things were going well in terms of post fire repairs.
“We moved back into the kitchen yesterday afternoon and things are progressing,” he said. “We have some electrical and structural repairs to do and we’re now getting estimates together to submit a supplement for budget.”
As a result of Friday’s fire, concern has been raised over the fact that there are no smoke detectors or any sprinkler system at Bordelais. Herman says adding in those necessities would be based on the ministry of finance and what is available. The director added: “We will make a submission for that.”
Herman says there was no serious panic among inmates on Friday evening despite the blaze because of the distance of the admissions block from the residential unit.
“There was no need for any evacuation or anything like that,” he said. “It took about half an hour to get the fire out, and in the end it was mostly smoke damage. I think the response of fire fighters was excellent. We’ve had mock operations in past that took longer. They worked well and were on the scene very quickly.”

Deputy fire chief Lambert Charles congratulated the fire team on a job well done.

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