Trinidad and Tobago — This was disclosed yesterday by fire officials and officials from the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources at a joint press conference on forest fires at Knowsley Building, Port-of-Spain.
Acting Chief Fire Officer, Roosevelt Bruce, said the month of May has been an unusally hectic month. He said last year there was a total of 300 bush fires in May and up to 8am yesterday, there were 202 bush fires.
He said the fire services was concentrating on ensuring that people are safe, and advised people to clear their property of bush, dry grass, and shrubs.
Ensure you have at least ten metres around your property clear. What happens if you leave that wild bush to grow, a bush fire will encroach on your property, he said. Devon Cinheiro flight lieutenant of the TT Defence Force Air Guard said they have worked in conjunction with the National Operations Centre conducting fire fighting operations utilising Bambi buckets. He said thus far, they have managed to put a total of 142 dumps of water on various fires which equates to 26,128 gallons of water.
Barry Mahabir, head of Forestry Divisions Fire Prevention Unit, said the greatest number of bush fires occurred in the North West conservancy with 142. He said of the 908.85 hectares of land burnt, 227.59 hectares were private lands and 663.31 hectares were State lands.
Minister in the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Ramona Ramdial, said the ministry was looking into recommendations given to them to addressing the bush fires. These recommendations included amending the Agriculture Fire Act to increase the fines from $1,500 to a possible $10,000 to those caught in the act of intentionally setting fires.
We will be looking at the recommendation of building retaining ponds along the Northern Range, and other areas for easy access to water.
The third recommendation is training in forest fire-fighting and aerial fire suppression and the fourth recommendation, possible leasing of forest fire water bomber planes, she said.
She also appealed to private land owners to be cognizant of the environment, and to not intentionally set fires to clear land during the dry season.
I am also making an appeal to the private landowners to allow the authorities to move into the land so we can get the fire traces implemented in these different areas, so we can prevent the spread of forest fires in the future, she said.
Ramdial warned that the bush fires will result in flooding, landslips and landslides when the rainy season begins. She appealed to citizens to be cognisant of the environment and implement preventative measures as the rainy season approaches.