Concerned about grass fires

Concerned about grass fires

08 February 2012

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Barbados — The reports earlier this week that a grass fire disrupted classes at the Christ Church Foundation School as well as caused problems for residents in the area was indeed distressing, to say the least. It is unfortunate that the fire occurred and caused persons to seek medical attention at the nearby polyclinic, and it also brings very much into focus the need for lots that are overgrown with bush to be cleaned with much haste.

In recent years there have been a number of grass fires that have had to be attended to by the Barbados Fire Service, and several pleas have been sent out for persons to exercise caution, especially when burning rubbish around their homes, to prevent the spread of such fires. The grass fire this week is the first I have heard of for the year of that magnitude, though others may have occurred. I sincerely hope that we do not see a repeat of previous years – in particular 2009 and 2010 – when grass fires kept the Fire Service extremely busy.

Admittedly, it is the dry season and grass fires can happen more often because of the intense heat, but I am not thoroughly convinced that the majority of the grass and cane fires that we have been recording over the years have been the result of Mother Nature. I would almost stick my neck out and say that they are often the result of some mischievous, devious persons. In 2010 Barbados recorded more than 2 500 fires, which was up from the 1990 recorded for 2009. There were also increases in the categories of private dwelling houses, commercial buildings as well as grass and sugar cane fires.

I would like to think that this year we will not see figures anywhere near those of the last two years, but I am also going to be realistic and accept that it is very much a possibility. However, while that is the case, I am going to urge citizens and residents of Barbados to remember that when they burn bush indiscriminately or simply out of malice start a fire in a bushy area, they risk putting homes as well as the persons’ lives in danger.

What we must also be cognisant of is that when the Barbados Fire Service is busy putting out grass or cane fires for example, they are not available to attend to other matters. Certainly it puts a strain on their personnel and indeed our water supply, and given that our water supply is already quite limited, we cannot afford to be using it to out fires that should not have occurred in the first place.

If I am not mistaken, at least one person was arrested for maliciously setting fires and while I do appreciate and understand that it may be somewhat difficult to prosecute someone for that act, I hope that the police do not let up in this regard.

I strongly believe that once people understand that if they are caught they could face criminal charges, they might think twice before striking the match.

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