Ground was broken on Thursday for construction of a $534.9 million fire station at Barnett Street in Montego Bay, St James.
The project, which is slated to be completed over 12 months, is being undertaken by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) under its Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Programme (DVRP).
The new fire station, which will have the capacity to house 140 firefighters, will replace the old Barnett Street facility that was demolished in 2006.
Since then, firefighters have been operating from the Montego Freeport location.
Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony, Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mike Henry, who has responsibility for JSIF, said the new fire station will enhance the capacity to save lives and property.
He urged the contractors to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget, “so that we can move on to another town”.
Senior Director in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Rupert Pryce, who represented Portfolio Minister, Desmond McKenzie, at the ceremony, said modern and well-equipped fire stations are crucial to improving the response time for fire calls and other emergencies.
“This ground-breaking ceremony… is a critical step in the process of protecting the assets and the people of this city. It is also a necessary step in the community development process,” he said.
Pryce reiterated the ministry’s commitment to improving the working conditions for the country’s firefighters.
For his part, Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), Stewart Beckford, said the new facility will improve service and provide a permanent home for the city’s firefighters.
“The importance of this fire station is underscored by the increasing number of calls that the St James division would have responded to over the many years. In 2006, when this facility was closed, the division responded to 821 fire calls. Fast forward to 2018, where the division responded to approximately 1,700 fire calls, an increase of almost 100 per cent,” Beckford said.
Two additional fire stations are to be built at Port Maria in St Mary and Yallahs in St Thomas under the DVRP.
The initiative supports the Government’s overall thrust to strengthen climate and disaster risk management within the wider context of sustainable development. This includes construction of national priority infrastructure, such as fire stations.