Fire service apologises for response after two house fires, saying they did their best 

Kuo kole fakamolemole ‘a e Potungāue Tāmate Afi’ ki he fāmili kuo mole honau fale ‘e ua ‘i Kolomotu’a ‘i he ‘aho Tokonaki 14. Pehē ‘e he Tokoni Komisiona ‘o e Potungāue’ Viliami Tu’ihalamaka mei he Potungāue Polisi’, Afi mo e Ngaahi Sēvesi Fakavavevave mo e Pilīsone’ ‘oku ‘ikai ha’ane toe tuli tonuhia’. Na’a’ ne pehē ko honau lelei taha’ pē na’e fakahoko’. Ne a’u ki he vela ko ‘eni’ ‘a e kau tāmate afi’ ‘i he taimi 3.01ef, ko ‘ene lau’ ia ‘o nau ‘ilo kuo kapu ‘e he afi’ e fale ‘e taha pea toe a’u atu ki ha fale ‘e taha ne ofi mai pe. ‘Oku kei fakatotolo’i e tupu’anga ‘o e vela’ni. Kuo tuku ‘e he fāmili Tu’itavuki ne ‘o nautolu e ongo fale vela’ ‘a e me’a kotoa ki mui mo nau pehē ‘oku nau faka’amu ke hoko ‘a e me’a ni ke ako mei ai ‘a e Potungāue’. Ne ‘i ai foki ‘a e tukuaki’i na’e tuai e ngāue atu ‘a e potungāue’ pea ‘ikai lelei ‘enau fakahoko e founga ne ngāue’aki ki hono tāmate’i ‘o e afi, kau ai e pehē ne fai e ‘uluaki fetu’utaki ia he telefoni 911 kae ‘ikai ko e 999 ‘a ia ko e fika ia ‘a e Tāmate Afi’.

The Fire Service has apologised to the family which lost two houses in a blaze in Kolomotu’a on Saturday, April 14.

Deputy Fire Commissioner Viliami Tu’ihalamaka from the Ministry of Police, Fire & Emergency Services and Prisons said he did not want to find justification.

He said they did their best to put out the fire.

The fire crew attended the fire scene at 3.01pm and found the blaze had engulfed one house and then spread to another house close by.

No one was injured.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

It cost the family TP$149,415 for both houses, Tu’ihalamaka said.

He said the day was moderately windy and this helped the fire spread quickly.

Another house situated at the northern side of the property was saved. A 20 foot container with goods at the western side of the property was also saved.

Tu’ihalamaka said the family first called 911 to report the blaze, but the telephone number for the Fire Services is 999.

He said a woman arrived at the station to report the fire, but by the time they received the report, two fire engines have arrived there.

The owner of the houses, ‘Amelia Tu’itavuki, told Kaniva News they have put everything behind them but wanted the Fire service to learn something from what had happened to their houses.

She said the fire crew parked their engines by the road and attacked the fire from there.

She said they were a little too far from the houses and the fire crew did not bring any of the trucks inside the property so they could have a close position to the fire. She said there was room there for the truck.

She said she believed if the fire crew had arrived in time they could have rescued their houses.

Tu’itavuki said they repeatedly rang the Service and an in-law drove to the station and reported the fire.

Asked about a claim by the authorities that they mistakenly reported the fire to 911 rather than 999, the number for the Fire service, Tu’itavuki said it was her in-law who mistakenly shouted to call 911 but they called 999 instead. She said her neighbours told her they repeatedly called 999, but the number was either busy or the calls went unanswered.

She said when her in-law got to the station she was told two fire engines had already been dispatched to the scene, but the relative denied this, saying she had just left the fire and she did not meet any fire engines on her way to the station.

Tu’ihalamaka said the fire crew had been professionally trained in how to do their work.

This included performing an initial assessment on arrival at any scene.

“The purpose is to find out what had actually happened and its nature and to see what the officer in charge directions for the crew are,” Tu’ihalamaka said.

“This would decide a number of things, including checking to see if there were things inside the house to be rescued, the position of the fire crew and whether they could attack the fire using “defensive” or “offensive” technique.”

Tu’ihalamaka said this was why the fire engines were positioned not too close to the fire because the two houses had already been engulfed.

He said two fire engines had been called to stand-by in Nukunuku and Lapaha.

He said this showed how the fire service endeavoured to do their best to put out the fire.

“The Ministry accepted criticisms and complaints from the public,” Tu’ihalamaka said.

“We regard it as an assistance and a learning experience to the work we do.”

He said the Ministry wanted a closer relationship with the public because of the difficult task they did to protect their lives and their properties.

The main points

  • The Fire Service has apologised to the family which lost two houses in a blaze in Kolomotu’a on Saturday, April 14.
  • Viliami Tu’ihalamaka from the Ministry of Police, Fire & Emergency Services and Prisons said he did not want to find justification.
  • The fire crew attended the fire scene at 3.01pm and found the blaze had engulfed one house and then spread to another house close by.
  • The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

1 COMMENT

  1. The Tongan phone book on page 2 says 911 for any emergency assistance.
    I have tried years ago to ring this number without success…
    All commonly used international emergency numbers (111 112 etc) should go to an emergency control centre

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