Sunday, January 21, 2018

Bush fires blaze in Diego Martin, St Ann’s

 THREATENING bush fires in the St Ann’s, La Horquette, Diego Martin and Goodwood Park areas kept fire fighters on the job for hours yesterday before the blazes were brought under control.

With no assistance from the rain to battle what they described as one of the most serious incidents within recent times, the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service has not been able to fully extinguish a series of fires that blazed at the weekend and earlier this week menacing homes in the St Ann’s area, including the home of businessman Arthur Lok Jack at Lady Chancellor Hill.

Assistant chief fire officer Roosevelt Bruce said yesterday while no homes had to be evacuated, the fires were to be taken seriously.

The TTFS has had to rely on cooperation from the National Operations Centre and the National Air Guard, which worked with a Bambi Bucket— a device attached to a helicopter which dumps water or foam— up to Wednesday night to reach areas that were inaccessible to firefighters on foot or in fire trucks.

Bruce said the bucket was not used yesterday due to the unavailability of the helicopter.

While the St Ann’s blaze had subsided by late yesterday afternoon, firefighters were still on the scene in the other areas up to around 4 p.m., ensuring that the blaze was under control.

The blaze spread to the Diego Martin area Wednesday.

Firefighters were called in and stayed on the job until 4 a.m., Bruce said. A lull followed, with the Diego Martin and St Ann’s fires flaring up later in the morning, forcing the team back on the scene.

“We are not yet sure whether the fires were deliberately set,” Bruce said.

Chief Fire Officer Nayar Rampersad has once again appealed to the public to curb any habits or behaviour that could potentially lead to bush fires.

Rampersad said while this year has not so far been as prolific as 2013 in terms of the number of fires, the Northern fires that have been going since last week have made this season one of the most serious.

“This fire has been far more impactful,” Rampersad said.

While bush fires can occur naturally during severe dry weather, Rampersad said the irresponsible use of fire remains the main cause.

He again called on the population to exercise caution with camping fires, lit cigarettes, yard fires and the slash and burn method used to clear land for cultivation and construction.

The bushfire season is typically observed between December 1 and June 30, when the rainy season begins.

Last year, the TFFS, in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and the Forestry Division hosted a week-long fire prevention workshop that included a nationwide campaign to educate the public.

In spite of this, a 600 per cent increase in bush fires was seen early in the season.

A Rio Claro bush fire last April claimed the life of an elderly gardener who authorities believed lost his life trying to save his crops.