The wooden building (1906) of the Fire Stations will be destroyed

1 month ago - November 03, 2023
Fire Stations wooden building will be destroyed
« The council is seeking financial clearance from our parent ministry to go ahead with the demolition works », underlines in the town hall

The decision of the authorities not to evacuate the staff operating on the ground floor sparks controversy

The Mauritius Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) is not supposed to ensure that safety in public and commercial buildings is respected. However, its wooden barracks in the capital, a national heritage site, located on rue Maillard, which threatens to collapse, do not seem to move the senior officers of this institution and the ministries concerned. Certainly, the decision was taken to evacuate the 1st floor of the building which houses the offices of the Senior Station Officers (SSO) and the Divisional Fire officers (DFO), except that the employees operating on the ground floor fell clouds upon learning that this part of the building will not be emptied in order to prevent the possible domino effect in the event of collapse. In a letter addressed Tuesday to the CEO of the MFRS, Asok Kumar Kehlary, the town hall underlines that “the council is seeking financial clearance from our parent ministry to go ahead with the demolition works. » Yet another page in the rich genesis of the capital which will fade away...

Heartbreaking. The word is not too strong to describe the lamentable state in which the fire soldiers' building is found, typical of the Creole architectural style mixing wood, cut stone and a steeply sloping roof. Located a few meters from the old Supreme Court, the Town Hall and the theater, the fire station was once the pride of Port Louisans. Left without maintenance, the building suffered obvious deterioration over time, so much so that in 2006, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, responsible for carrying out a structural investigation to determine whether the building could be restored or demolished, notes that the building suffers from visible structural defects and is in a state of general distress and “beyond economic repair”. It is doomed to disappear, in other words!

It was then proposed to transfer the barracks to Jin Fei, Riche-Terre, but the file made little progress. In 2016, there was finally talk of building it at Immigration Square, in the complex that would house the Metro Express terminal... which has still not been built. Things took another turn when a report, dated October 5, 2017, from the civil engineering department of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, concluded that “the wooden building is showing alarming signs of being in a dangerous state." A danger for all staff. The said ministry therefore ordered the evacuation of the entire building. While waiting for it to be emptied, the barracks on rue Maillard are undergoing structural consolidation work, using piles, and the filling of breaches in the walls and ceiling. It is the Central Electricity Board (CEB), whose offices adjoin the barracks, which is behind this work. “A shame for the MFRS and its supervisory ministry,” confides a firefighter.

The toilets are condemned!

The years pass without anyone deciding to implement the recommendations of Public Infrastructure, before certain discordant voices sounding the alarm about this lethargy, particularly within the union body, are heard. Meetings have taken place over the last two months between National Infrastructure engineers and the MFRS who took the decision to evacuate the ten employees who work on the 1st floor of the dilapidated building, while the ground floor will continue to house firefighters' offices and rest rooms until further notice. An approach far from being unanimous among the staff, who fear that the roof will collapse on their heads. They are all the more frustrated because the toilets have also been condemned by the authorities.

The city of Port-Louis was ravaged several times by fires in the 18th and 19th centuries. The most dramatic were those of 1816 and 1892. In general, the fires devastated entire sections of the city, the houses being essentially built of wood and straw. There was only one fire pump store in the port district but, in the event of a fire, residents could get water from certain individuals on an official list. This lack gave rise to the inauguration of a fire station in 1906, on rue Maillard. It is now difficult to recognize the building.

Two buildings, one made of wood and the other made of stone, were built on the site where a small fire department had operated since 1851. The fire brigade was connected to the electricity network when the electric lighting system was launched in the capital in 1907. Equipment dating from the period has been preserved, such as ladders and a clock, used to sound the alarm, which remains one of only three examples in the world to have been manufactured by the famous company British Merryweather. Heritage lovers, like the NGO Sos Patrimoine en Péril, have stepped up initiatives to ensure that the wooden building is preserved and renovated instead of being demolished, as time passes and given its state of advanced disrepair, it becomes more and more obvious that it will never regain its former glory.

The words of the presenter, writer and history enthusiast Stéphane Bern: "To poorly maintain one's heritage and abandon it to its fate is an intellectual bankruptcy, a moral fault, a political error, economic nonsense" perfectly summarize this “I don’t care” demonstrated by our politicians.

Text by Le Mauricien

We also recommend