A Fireman who has given more than 20 years of service to the Guyana Fire Service on Wednesday described the March 3 unrest in The Camp Street Prison as “life threatening”.
Fireman Garfield Benjamin, testifying before the Commission of Inquiry, said he does not believe that any amount of training could have prepared him or his colleagues for what they were confronted with on that day.
“We had to deal with unrest prisoners and it’s always threatening… the training I received prepared me to an extent,” he said.
Benjamin further went onto explain that while he has received extensive training in fire prevention he “never had these type of training to deal with unrest like what happen at the Camp Street Prison.” He said while it was not the first time he had responded to a fire at the jailhouse and there were standing operating procedures to be followed, the attitude of prisoners made it difficult for fire fighting.
“At first when we started they [the prisoners] were obstructing and blocking but after they realized the severeness they [the prisoners] stopped.”
Benjamin testified that prisoners were throwing “stuff” at firefighters.
He clarified the “stuff” to be bricks but claimed that at no time those bricks came from the Division where 17 prisoners died.
“I know it wasn’t accidental because you saw them trying to hamper us, they didn’t want us to put out the fire,” he added. He is of the belief that the heat inside the cell caused the metal on the door to swell, thereby making the rescue of the prisoners trapped in the cell difficult.
Benjamin said fires were lit by the door and at least six other places within the cell.
He said when the door was finally opened “it wasn’t a nice sight, first time I ever saw so many persons burn… there were about 12 persons by the door and others under a bed and like three in the bathroom area,” He told the Commission of Inquiry.
He admitted that his role was to put out the fire and not to investigate who or how the fires were lit. (Kurt Campbell)
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