Installation of fire hydrants proposed for island

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 22            June 13, 2002

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An area of great concern for many island residents is the fact that there are currently no working fire hydrants in our community. This was most recently discovered during the catastrophic fire, which destroyed several buildings in the airstrip area. During the blaze, firemen discovered a hydrant near Ramon's Village had been eliminated when the cobblestones for the new street were placed, and another hydrant at the corner of the airstrip was not functioning either.

    Pumping water from the sea or lagoon is a challenge fire fighters are faced with almost every time they attempt to battle a blaze in San Pedro Town. For the past several weeks, The San Pedro Sun has contacted a variety of agencies involved in this issue. We are delighted to report that some positive steps are finally being taken to remedy this dangerous situation.

    In specific areas, hydrants could now replace the need to obtain water from the sea or lagoon. Hydrants would eliminate the challenges associated with priming a fire truck's pump, as pressure forces water from a hydrant. According to the National Fire Service, the mayor and several town representatives were made aware of the need for fire hydrants at a meeting held February 2nd, 2002 and were sent a follow-up letter to this effect on March 6, 2002.

    The fire service stated that fire hydrants are needed at strategic locations around town in the proximities of, but not limited to: Pescador Drive, Ramon's Village, Island Academy, Barefoot Iguana, the Airstrip, San Pedrito, San Juan, Boca del Rio, San Telmo and Escalante areas. 

    It was further learned that, some years ago, the former Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) was contacted  regarding the price for installing fire hydrants, but that the cost to install hydrants and supply the fittings needed for the installation was around $3000 each. This proposal was apparently more than the municipality was willing or able to afford, and ceased the need for further negotiations. According to the National Fire Service, hydrants, complete with the appropriate fittings, are now available at the fire service at no cost to municipalities.

    A current proposal for the cost of installation of fire hydrants in San Pedro Town and Placencia is being sought from Belize Water Services (BWS). Speaking with representatives from BWS, they informed The San Pedro Sun that they are presently investigating the locations specified by the fire service, to determine how near the proposed hydrants are to existing water pipes. This will establish the amount of connecting pipe needed and the additional fittings required to complete the estimate required. It is anticipated the National Fire Service will receive the BWS installation proposal in "a little more than a week's time".

    When questioned whether the fact that hydrants were a "public service" would be taken into consideration in determining the price, the BWS representative replied that all materials and labor prices would be submitted at cost or "requiring no profit." The San Pedro Sun further learned that the cost of water used by municipality fire hydrants is "generally" set up as an annual "flat rate" which is billed to central government. This fee is similar to an insurance policy, in that whether the service is used or not used, the yearly rate remains the same. As a matter of clarification, this is not what has been negotiated between the water service and the fire service; it is only what is considered the "norm" in most circumstances.

    According to the BWS representative, figures should be available by next week. The San Pedro Sun will update the public as information becomes available.
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