Dark plumes of smoke rose into the sunny skies of a hum drum Tuesday afternoon in Massade Industrial Estate. As a fire raged near the Glad Tidings Pentecostal church, employees of nearby establishments rushed out to take in the spectacle. As they watched what was first believed to be a bush fire quickly develop into a much larger blaze, officers at the Gros Islet Fire Station looked out and noticed the thick black smoke.
“We didn’t get a call,” Sub Officer John Clarke told the STAR when we arrived to the scene. “We saw the smoke and came over to investigate. On the way we got confirmation from a fireman who lives in the area. He told us there had been some bush burning and that was the initial cause.”
“When we got there we realized there were a lot of rubber tiles,” he added, describing the tiles as the sort often used in flood prone areas, to cover fields or open areas.
When Clarke and his team arrived the entire area was engulfed. They had difficulty initially, finding a point at which to tackle the fire, and their hesitation did not go down well with frantic church goers and business owners who openly questioned their tactics and speed. Speaking the STAR after the fire was extinguished Clarke explained that it was all strategic.
“We couldn’t tackle it from just any point,” he explained. “We had to tackle it from upwind, because of the fumes. We realized it was plastic tiles, and we got more information that it was toxic because they were actually made from PVC. We evacuated persons when we initially came in but when people realized the threat was gone they started to trickle in. We advised them not to get into the smoke.”
Mindful of the safety of officers, they were instructed by their team leader to get fitted with breathing apparatus before attempted to get into the blaze.
“There was a little delay as a result,” he said, “and we had a little issue with water, which we had to get from our hydrant which is by the STAR.”
With water issues threatening their mission, the team lead made the decision to call for back up from Castries to augment their supply.
“With that we were able to hit the fire and finally get it under control,” Clarke said. “Initially, we had to use some foam because the water was doing nothing for us. I made the decision to use foam, which gave us a quick knock down. With that we were able to use the water to actually extinguish the rest of the fire. We did the mop up after that because we had fire in some of the containers, so we had to open them up to put out the remnants in there.”
Once the blaze settled and the smoke cleared Clarke said he could not have been prouder of the performance of his men.
“Based on the material we had the guys did a very good job. Very efficient!” he expressed. “I commend them very much. I wouldn’t want to work with a better team that what I have with me right now.”
At press time, officers were still on the scene making a cause determination. Though the fire was in very close proximity to Glad Tidings, the church did not appear to be seriously affected.