There has been a more than 300 per cent increase in fires in Hanover from January to May. According to superintendent in charge of that fire division, Paul Hibbert, the dramatic increase was due to the number of bush fires which occurred in the parish in the first four months of the year. He said drought-like conditions made matters worse.
There were 430 genuine fire calls up to May this year, said Hibbert, compared with 133 registered during the first five months of 2008. Twenty-nine persons have been left homeless by fire this year, eight more than last year’s January-May figures. Deaths, though, have been low, with only one casualty recorded in both periods.
The superintendent told the Jamaica Information Service that despite limited resources, firemen were able to keep property loss at a minimal level. They recorded an estimated $1.73 million in property loss in 2009, a significant decrease from the $8.95 million in losses last year.
In order to combat the problem of limited resources, community members are being trained by fire department personnel to be first responders to blazes.
“What we are doing now is to go into the different communities and have persons trained as fire wardens, who will act as first aid responders until the fire brigade gets there,” he stated. He said the response to the programme has been overwhelming.
Hibbert urged farmers and other residents to desist from burning refuse and other vegetation without supervision which, he said, caused many of the bush fires.