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Lack of co-operation between fire departments is ‘incomprehensible’

17:36 27/08/2018

Should you live in Tervuren or Sint-Genesius-Rode or anywhere else in the Brussels periphery, pray that a Flemish fire department is closer to you than its Brussels counterpart. Because, according to public service union VSOA, a Brussels fire department will not be called to put out your fire.

The subject came up again last week during a house fire in Dilbeek, just west of Brussels. The fire department in Asse was notified, but they did not have a fire engine with hose capabilities available, so back-up was called from Vilvoorde and Londerzeel. Both those departments are north of Brussels.

“Incomprehensible, because the department in Jette is much closer and we had a truck available with exactly what was needed,” a fire fighter in Jette told Bruzz.

Eric Labourdette of VSOA told the paper that this is certainly no isolated incident. “Even when bombs went off in the airport in Zaventem, no one called us. We sent help of our own accord. And since then, nothing has changed. It’s a serious problem because people’s lives are in danger.”

Minutes count

Ambulances, however, appear to be a different story. The Jette fire department was told to send an ambulance to the scene. “And it was there seven minutes earlier than the fire engines from Flemish Brabant,” said the firefighter in Jette. “When you realise that a whole room can burn up in three minutes, then you know what a sea of time that is.”

The problem does not appear to be about regional competencies but about a lack of a common communication system between regions. Alain Habils, spokesperson from the Flemish Brabant West fire zone, told Bruzz that communication between regional fire zones was “stiff” but also that there is a lack of compatible software.

“The Brussels dispatch system is older than ours,” he said. “We can see in our system which departments are available to call on. We don’t have that information for Brussels.”

Photo: Thierry Roge/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw