OBSERVER MEDIA – There was a drop in the total number of fires to which the Antigua and Barbuda Fire Service responded in 2021, compared to the previous year. This is according to the department head, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Elvis Weaver, who shared the statistics during the police’s end-of-year press briefing last Friday.

In 2020, there was a total of 494 fires that the department responded to, but for 2021 that number dipped by 19 percent to 402. Giving a further breakdown, Weaver said last year saw 49 house fires, 29 vehicular fires, 120 brush fires, 75 rubbish fires, 24 false calls, 61 electrical fires, 11 business fires, and another 33 for other miscellaneous incidents.

Furthermore, there was a 17 percent reduction in house fires when compared to 2020 which had 59, whereas electrical fires increased by 34 percent in 2021 since the previous year recorded 41 cases. There was also a slight increase in vehicular fires last year, as 2020 recorded 24 incidents.

Meanwhile, Weaver is looking ahead to the new year with a sense of optimism, considering the resource challenges his team has been facing for quite a while. For some time, there has been an inadequate number of fire tenders island-wide due to some vehicles being inoperable for mechanical reasons.

A shortage of equipment, including fire trucks, has been exacerbated during the pandemic and the freak accident at the VC Bird International Airport last April, which caused the death of a firefighter following an apparent truck malfunction, also added to this dilemma.

“We continue to do our work and do our work well despite of the criticism we have been getting a lot lately, but we continue to work hard. We are depending on the authorities to supply us with the tools that we need to carry out our job sufficiently and efficiently.

“I am very hopeful — and I said it in a meeting probably this week — that I can feel it in my spirit that this year will be a better year for the fire department,” Weaver said. He added that last year was a trying year for the service, however he commended his staff for their hard work and dedication despite the limitations.