Guyana fire chief charged with dereliction of duty over deadly fire that killed 20 children

Photo courtesy of Gregory Wickham

Guyana Fire Service Chief Gregory Wickham on Sunday said a report by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the massive fire that broke out at the Mahdia Secondary School early last year has found dereliction of duty in the performance of duty, in which 19 girls and one boy were killed. The boy had died.

A recent report submitted to Guyana’s President Irfan Ali states that Wickham did not prioritize a report on poor fire safety at the school dormitory, which led him to become Mahdia Fire Station NCO-in-charge less than three months before the incident. Met Ryan Scott. ,

The commission document revealed that in connection with the dormitory fire, Scott had inspected the dormitory on February 7, 2023, compiled and sent a report to Wickham in which he identified numerous weaknesses in fire safety at that facility, which was owned by the Condition. Identified points, including complete absence. of any fire prevention system.

The report also said the buildings had only three fire extinguishers and all windows had bars.

Regarding the response of area firefighters on the night of the fire, the COI reported that the guard did not know Petty Officer Scott’s number, so he could not call him.

On his part, Chief Warrant Officer Scott assured the inquiry that city members would have to contact him through his personal mobile phone.

“When the head of a fire service of any country has such a report, he is expected to go beyond the call of duty and service to ensure compliance. We believe that, under any circumstances, this was what the fire chief lacked,” the IOC declared.

“We consider this a minimal action and certainly not a dereliction of the duties assigned to the highest-ranking fire official in this country,” the commission said.

The inquiry committee led by retired Major General Joseph Singh concluded that the fire was deliberately set and that hours earlier, a student had threatened to set the residence on fire if her mobile phone was not returned. Confiscated because it is prohibited to use it after 9:00 pm

In May 2023, a 15-year-old student was charged with causing a fire in a dormitory at a Guyana government boarding school on the night of 21 May and causing the deaths of 20 minors.

19 girls living in the hostel and a 5-year-old boy, son of a school caretaker, died in the fire.

The school, which had tight security against theft making evacuation difficult, primarily served students from indigenous villages outside Mahdia.

Since there are no secondary schools in many mountain communities, some students who wish to pursue higher education attend Mahdia Secondary School.

The President of Guyana assured that the affected families will be compensated and counseling will be provided to all students, their families, teachers and community members.

In many cases indigenous communities, who felt neglected by the government, demanded compensation and justice after the tragedy. efe

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