Na Gone Turaga na Qaranivalu;
Na Vanua o Matanikutu Naivisere;
Hon Minister for Local Government, Housing & Community
Fellow Cabinet Ministers;
The NFA Board Chairman;
The Chief Executive Officer, Management and Staff of the
National Fire Authority;
Ladies and Gentlemen
Yadra vinaka, my friends –– and what a good morning it is!
I’m happy to join you all today as we officially open the new Nakasi Fire Station. Together with the brand-new fire truck that will service your community, we stand before a $1.7-Million-Dollar investment in your growing community.
Whenever I turn on the news or open the paper and see an image of a building engulfed in flames, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach –– and my first thought, like any Fijian’s, is whether those inside made it out okay.
I wonder what could have been done differently, and how we could have avoided this senseless tragedy. But when a home or business can go from a spark to a raging inferno in just a matter of minutes, it leaves little room for error. Every second counts when it comes to responding to a fire –– and can make the difference between life and death.
That’s why my Government is committed to extending the reach of the National Fire Authority as far as possible, with 18 fire stations found in communities all throughout Fiji –– communities like Nakasi –– and manning those stations with rotating teams of firefighters who stand at the ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Strong and well-staffed fire stations provide Fijians with emergency services that can help protect homes, businesses, and lives from the threat of fires and other emergencies. The people of Nakasi can now sleep easier knowing that these life-saving services are at your doorstep.
But despite its name, the National Fire Authority does far more than put out fires. The NFA’s responsibilities have grown to include responding to auto accidents, protecting the public from hazardous materials spillage, carrying out flood and swift water rescue operations, emergency ambulatory services, first aid assistance, and search and rescue operations.
By every standard, Fijian firefighters keep our communities safe day and night –– and for that, they are heroes.
And their heroism was on full display in recent months, as Fiji grappled with two crises –– COVID-19 and Tropical Cyclone Harold. Each posed unique challenges, which were only compounded by the other. Responding to either one alone would be difficult; being forced to navigate both at once would seem nearly impossible.
But the National Fire Authority stepped up and took action when the country needed them most. By keeping our evacuation centres sanitized, clearing debris and fallen trees, and cleaning out our communities as soon as the storm had settled, the NFA showed the world that Fijians don’t back away from any challenge or crisis, no matter how great.
My friends, all this said, our firefighters might seem larger-than-life. But the truth is, even without the protective gear or flashing trucks, all one of us can be firefighters, too. Because the most effective way of fighting fires is to prevent them from ever even starting.
That’s why the NFA is setting out to educate our communities on proper safety precautions and preparedness, alerting the public about the best ways to prevent fires and save lives.
I ask every Fijian to use today as a learning opportunity, and as a chance to make the commitment to take fire safety seriously.
Some of the biggest steps you can take are the simplest. Ensure that your homes are fire-safe by switching off all electrical appliances after use. Prevent overloading your power supply.
Stay in the kitchen until your food is cooked and stove is switched off. Keep an eye on candles, prayer diyas and mosquito coils, making sure that they are safely spaced from any flammable materials, placed on ceramic or metallic surfaces, and extinguished before leaving home or before going to bed.
I also ask all parents to keep a close watch on your children. They often don’t understand the potential dangers of a flickering flame, and their curiosity might get the better of them. Take every precaution to fire-proof your house by keeping matches and lighters out of their reach. And realise that it’s our responsibility to sit down and speak to them about just how deadly a fire can be; so, by sitting down and having a simple conversation, you may be saving their life.
And, as always, remember that the NFA is just a phone call away –– so dial 910 if you need help.
To the firefighters who will be servicing the Nakasi Fire Station –– you’re being entrusted with more than a new building and a new fire truck. In your hands, you hold the safety of the many families who will depend on this station, and on you, when they need you most.
I trust you’re up for this challenge before you, and I look forward to watching you rise to it. Be the heroes we all know you to be.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my great pleasure to declare this new Nakasi Fire Station officially open.
Vinaka vakalevu, and God bless Fiji.