The construction industry on Ambergris Caye is considered a reflection of the growth of the tourism industry with the development of building projects or the expansion of existing establishments across the island. It is required by law that these constructions/expansions adhere to safety building regulations, which range from environmental concerns to health and even fire. When clearing new projects on the island from becoming a fire hazard, the San Pedro Fire Department (SPFD) has been busy trying to get everyone to abide by their regulations. As a result, some of their precautionary interventions have ended up at the San Pedro Magistrate Court.
One case heard at Magistrate Deborah Rogers’ courtroom on the island involved a stop order against a construction project issued by the SPFD. The issue began on August 22nd, when after inspecting a structure under construction irregularities were noticed, and the structure deemed a fire hazard. The SPFD reportedly issued a stop order, and when the construction continued without compliance, the matter ended up in court.
On Wednesday, September 11th, for unknown reasons, the SPFD withdrew their complaint, and the case was dismissed. It is unclear what led to such decision, but it is alleged that political interference may have played a role in the department’s abrupt withdrawal from the case.
During the court session, allegations were brought up as to why there was no case. The defence claimed that SPFD did not have jurisdiction to issue ‘Stop Orders’ but can only give ‘Notice Orders.’ According to the allegations presented, the Fire Chief may issue a notice identifying the irregularities and suggest changes are made within a time frame but cannot stop the construction/project. If there is no compliance, they can apply to the court for the property to be vacated.
This was referred in the National Fire Service Act under Section 18 (1) which states that: ‘The Fire Chief may in writing, if he is of the opinion that the condition of any specified building, public premises or any building used for business constitutes or is likely to constitute a hazard, serve a notice on the occupier or owner of such building, requiring the occupier or owner, within such period as may be specified in the notice, to carry out such work on the building as may be specified in the notice, or to take such other action as may be required in order to render the building safe from fire in order to protect life and property.’Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun