Fire officers and workers at the Department of Environment (DOE) brought under control a massive bush fire that was raging for almost a week in East End on Tuesday, 16May which was threatening the Salina Reserve where a number of Blue Iguanas were recently released as part of the recovery programme.
During the operation, an employee from the DOE fell and cut his hand after he was lowered in the fire zone from helicopter, according to Acting Fire Chief Roy Grant.
The area is a hazardous zone, he said.
Its full of cliffs, sinkholes, ponds and sharp rocks. We used a helicopter to drop fire officers and DOE workers in there to fight the fire. One of the DOE workers fell and gashed his hand on one of the sharp rocks, he said.
He said that during the operation, a fireman also fell waist-deep in a sinkhole.
The others had to pull him out before he could go under. It is very hazardous out there and we only had access to the fire by air over the weekend, he said.
Gina Ebanks-Petrie, Director of the Department of Environment, confirmed that one worker was injured on the hand but she could not speak on the seriousness of the injury.
I was told that he was cut on the hand, she told Cayman Net News.
Speaking about the fire, Mrs Ebanks-Petrie said that she was informed last Thursday that there was a fire near Salina Reserve where the National Trust is trying to reintroduce the Blue Iguana, which is on the endangered species list, back into the wild.
She said the fire not only threatens the Reserve but the south and north dry forests where a few Blue Iguanas and other indigenous animals live.
The Fire Department was contacted and informed about the situation.
On Saturday 13 May, the fire had reached the southern end of the reserve. Fred Burton from the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, employees from the DOE and Germaine from Cayman Helicopter combatted the fire for most of the day using buckets and spades.
After a few hours they realised that the buckets and spades would not work so they contacted the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) for assistance. They agreed and converted one of their planes for fire bombing, Mrs Ebanks-Petrie said.
She said that on Sunday they reconnoitred the area and found that the fire was not completely put out. Come Monday, they were back fighting the blaze from both on land and in the air. Richard Clough flew 11 missions that day using the MRCU plane to drop water bombs on the blaze.
Up until Tuesday workers from the MRCU, DOE and the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, and fire officers, were still fighting the blaze. The fire officers vehicles gained some access to the conflagration using farm roads while the MRCU planes continued their aerial bombardment.
Mr Grant told Cayman Net News that when they started fighting the fire it was in remote areas. He said that as soon as it reached an area where their vehicles could get to it then they would be able to properly fight the fire.
Meanwhile, Mr Burton was in the area tracking, by radio, some of the Blue Iguanas that were released.