Massive bush fire threatens homes

21 April 2020

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SINT MAARTEN – MIDDLE REGION–The St. Maarten Fire Department responded to a massive bush fire on the Middle Region hill on Monday night. The blaze threatened several homes and engulfed the area in thick smoke.

Persons in the area noticed the bush fire around 7:50pm. Videos of the fire circulated on social media shortly afterward, and showed the blaze coming close to some homes in Middle Region near the top of the hill.

The fire then spread toward the south and east, toward Arch Road.

By 10:00pm, the fire was at the top of the hill and descending slowly toward homes near the end of Hispaniola Road in Sucker Garden.

Authorities blocked off the junction of Hispaniola Road and Arch Road, as firefighters were deployed near the homes at the end of the road.

Firefighters were constrained in their ability to fight the bush fire. Despite having a sufficient supply of water, the fire trucks and water tankers were too large to manoeuvre the narrow, steep road to deliver water directly to firefighters on the frontlines.

The Fire Department then waited for the fire to come closer. A wall behind the homes at the top of Hispaniola Road offered some protection from the advancing flames, which were estimated to be at least 15 feet high in some places.

“The Fire Department has various fire trucks and water tankers placed in certain areas on standby and will continue to closely monitor the progress of the fire during the course of the night,” said the Ministry of General Affairs in a press release late Monday night. The Fire Department had a police drone in the air to help authorities monitor the fire.

Workers of utilities company GEBE were also at the scene on standby because the fire was threatening to destroy electricity cables as well.

The Ministry of General Affairs advised residents of the Madame Estate area and those living around A.Th. Illidge Road and Zagersgut Road to close their windows and doors due to the smoke.

The fire caused a large column of smoke to be blown westward, and persons living as far away as Cole Bay said they could smell the bush fire burning.

As of 12:55am Tuesday, the fire was ongoing, but it had not spread to homes at the top of Hispaniola Road. The wind also changed direction around that time and was pushing the slowly-moving fire toward Sucker Garden Road.

Fire Department officials said on Monday night that the cause of the fire could not be determined. However, some Middle Region residents claimed to have smelled smoke from late Monday afternoon, giving rise to speculation that direct sunlight caused dry vegetation to ignite.

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