Bush fires –– even more so than those of the cane –– are dangerous because they are pretty much uncontrollable. Ask Vincent Best who lost his Heddings, St Philip home to grass fire yesterday. Or Anthony Leacock and Laurilyn Caddle, whose two-storey house was partially damaged.
And none of them exactly resided in the bush itself.
Ask the owners of the five cars consumed in the bush fire’s path at Frere Pilgrim, Christ Church, yesterday.
Elsewhere –– in the United States, to be precise –– bush fires are known to have gobbled up whole towns, killing hundreds and rendering homeless, thousands. Some observers may quibble about comparative size and acreage; but a bush fire is a bush fire is a danger to property and life.
Fortunately, our bush or grass fires hardly take human life, though animals have been known to perish in them before. But they have put asthmatics and those who suffer with other respiratory problems in mortal danger.
And some others, like shopkeeper Carrington Smith of Fairview in St Philip, have come to accept the seasonal billowing smoke
as a necessary misery the must endure in their otherwise comfortable surroundings.
Just weeks ago, at the school term’s end, schoolchildren and teachers were being made victims of these grass fires, with those suffering from asthma and acute sinusitis having to seek urgent medical attention.
And there is little solace to most in the suggestion that this is the dry season and grass and bush and cane fires are to be expected. We suspect that Mother Nature has little to do with the conflagration we are being subjected to. Some may be at the hands of the pyromaniacs among us and the negligent who insist on burning their rubbish outdoors.
And we had thought the days of the neighbourhood stuff-burning brigade had long passed. Sadly, the neighbourhood firebombers remain all over the place. And it is these Station Officer Mervin Mayers advises to make sure they have a supply of water in the event their flames begin to spread. Why is the goodly firefighter giving pausible excuse for outdoor burning of rubbish?
We are yet to see any serious steps being taken by the authorities to impose severe penalties for those setting garbage afire in neighbourhoods –– and with flaunted impunity, caring not for the asthmatic and chronic sinusitis sufferers –– and putting properties and lives even at risk, including their own.
We again appeal to the Attorney General to bring urgent and tough, relevant legislation to stop this madness of burning waste
in and around residential districts. And the Minister of Health must prod him to.
Too many a victim of indiscriminate burning has had to take emergency trips to the Asthma Bay of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, after being overwhelmed by smoke from a neighbour’s firebombing. And, we cannot have people losing their homes through no fault of their own.
The burnt out spaces we have been confronted with in the past few weeks speak too to the pressures being put on our staff depleted Barbados Fire Service and the unnecessary risk to life of its officers, and the unplanned usage of our limited water supply.
We can ill afford taking what little precious water we have to be putting out grass, bush and cane fires recklessly or otherwise caused.