Trinidad/Tobago — Massive bush fires ravaged the Northern Range and other parts of the country yesterday sending torrents of smoke skywards and leaving hillside home and business owners very uneasy.
Firefighters tried desperately to contain the fires which started on the mountains north of St Augustine and spread as far as Caura. In the end, the fires won and the firemen gave up and focused their attention on other parts of the country that were burning.
We need an aircraft to drop water at the top the fire because we cannot even reach it from the ground, a firefighter from the Tunapuna Fire Station said yesterday. One fire appliance had the herculean task of monitoring the El Dorado and Caura districts to ensure the fires did not reach nearby houses.
Fire appliances from other stations were at the scenes of other forest fires along the east-west corridor.
The view from the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway looked as if a sleeping volcano was ready to erupt and was billowing smoke.
Lasana Lewis of Golden View, El Dorado said he was thankful that he had pipe borne water yesterday when his home was threatened by fire.
Today is one day WASA would have to excuse me for using the water as I use whatever means available to save my house, he said.
His home is situated at the bottom of a hill bordering El Dorado and Caura and was threatened as bush fires spread to within 20 feet of the property.
When Newsday visited his home yesterday, Lewis was standing at the back of his property using a garden hose to wet the bushes near his home to keep the fire at bay. The father of three said the fire was having a nerve wrecking effect on him and caused him sleepless nights since the previous night.
I have a two-week-old newborn so you can imagine the kind of panic weve been under, Lewis said. Last night was terrible. I havent slept yet, he continued. Tonight will be worse. I dont know if I will sleep.
He noted that this year has been the worst forest fires he has seen since moving into Golden View five years ago.
Fire Sub Station Officer Mohan Sooknanan said his officers were busy since 3 am yesterday extinguishing the forest fires.
Forestry Division employees were despatched to several of the threatened areas to assist in putting out the fires.
Forest fires also spread off the westbound lane of the Beetham Highway shortly after 4 pm, causing almost zero visibility among drivers using the freeway.
Hours after that, fire appliances from the Fire Services Headquarters on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, were busy extinguishing the blaze and ensuring that it did not re-ignite overnight.
For this year, over 3,000 confirmed cases of bush fires have been reported to the Fire Services as the drought coupled with human acts such as starting fires and improperly discarding cigarette butts, have led to an above average number of bush fires.