TWENTY-THREE firefighters, National Environmental Planning Agency staffers, and three representatives of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management and the Forestry Department, recently benefited from an Incident Command Services training course which covered techniques for dealing with bush fires.
The course was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Protected Area and Rural Enterprise project and led by experts from the US Forest Service.
Dan Kandarion, the US forest service training leader, said bush fires had placed a serious financial burden on the country’s coffers.
“Uncontrolled bush fires and drought have taken a toll on Jamaican farming communities with a total economic loss of over $270 million in 2005 alone,” Kandarian said during a graduation ceremony at the Medallion Hall Hotel in St Andrew on Friday.
Figures released by the Rural Agriculture Development Agency showed the livelihood of more than 14,000 local farmers were affected by those fires.
The programme will also target farmers who use the slash-and-burn method to clear land and residents who burn their rubbish with a public awareness campaign under the theme ‘Think Before You Burn’.
The participants were taught how to improve inter-agency responses to disasters and their ability to react effectively to and manage disasters.
The ICS training is to be followed by a bush fire suppression training and information exchange programme to be held from July 9 -13 this year for firefighters, fire responders and training officers.
Earl Mowatt, acting commissioner of operations at the Jamaica Fire Brigade, was grateful for the training programme and pointed to a dearth of resources currently facing the fire department.
“Bush fires pose a particular challenge to us in Jamaica. Though we have limited resources, between January and April (this year) we have responded to in excess of 2,000 bush fire calls. To say we are stretched to the limit is to put it mildly,” Mowatt said.
Firefighter Delroy Dowdie (centre) proudly displays his certificate of participation in the Incident Command System training course put on by USAID recently. Looking on are Don Kandarian – US Forest Service Training Team Leader (right) and USAID Acting Mission Director, James Harmon. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)