A fire at the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre (SBRC) this afternoon prompted the Barbados Fire Service (BFS) to declare a major incident.
And almost six hours after the fire broke out at 3 p.m. the Ministry of Health and Wellness advised persons with respiratory conditions to evacuate their homes.
In a release sent out this evening, the Ministry also warned persons feeling unwell to seek medical attention.
“Members of the public are advised that the emergency services are currently dealing with a fire at the SBRC Transfer Centre at Vaucluse, St Thomas. Communities in the areas of Mangrove Pond, Christie Village, Holder’s Hill, Payne’s Bay, Sandy Lane and surrounding areas on the west coast may be affected by heavy smoke,” it stated.
“The Ministry of Health and Wellness is advising persons with asthma or other pre-existing respiratory conditions to leave these areas until conditions improve. Persons who are feeling unwell due to the fire are advised to seek immediate medical attention. The emergency responders are taking all necessary steps to control the fire at the Mangrove Landfill and mitigate its impact.”
The fire sent thick, black smoke billowing high into the air from the recycling plant situated at Vaucluse, St Thomas, and could be seen from as far away as the University of the West Indies.
Divisional Officer Errol Gaskin, commander of the Northern Division, told Barbados TODAY fire officers were alerted about the fire at 2:55 p.m.
Three fire tenders, a water tanker and 14 fire officers responded to the blaze.
He said once the situation was assessed, a major incident was declared, prompting the involvement of several emergency services.
“On arrival the place was described as being fully engulfed in flames. In the initial stages an extensive assessment was done and we declared a major incident afterwards,” Gaskin said.
“We have engaged the services of the Sanitation Service Authority; also we contacted the Department of Emergency Management; we informed the Queen Elizabeth Hospital as well as the Ministry of Health and the Environmental Protection Department.
“We have since gone past the assessment phase and we have determined that we are going to do some wetting. At this point we know we are challenged, it is not as easy as a landfill since all the materials are surfaced, so some is going to burn out and we are going to do some immediate wetting and we’ve prepared the equipment to start a wet down on the eastern end of the area,” he added.
Gaskin said he expected the incident to be a “protracted one” which meant fire officers would be battling it over 24 hours.
He explained that due to the nature of the fire, it was determined the best form of action was to let it “burn out”, as it would require “gallons and gallons” of water to fully extinguish.
He however, said at the time his main concern was for residents who were immediately downwind of the blaze.
Ralph Bizzy Williams, owner of SBRC was on site keeping a close eye on proceedings. He told Barbados TODAY his daughter called him and alerted him about the fire.
While he said the cause of the fire was unknown at the time, he praised the BFS for their quick work.
He said fire officers sprung into action, saving a building and valuable equipment.
“We don’t know how it started, but it travelled very fast. We are very thankful for the Fire Service who came and put a truck inside the transfer station to wet the stuff on the fire side and that helped to save the station, the generator and the fuel thank and everything, so we’re very grateful for the Fire Service,” Williams said.
“It was all hands on deck when we realized there was a fire. Everybody chipped in and did the best they could and we’re hoping to burn it out now. It’s the only solution because we can’t get in close to put it out and water is not going to help because it evaporates before it even gets to the surface,” the business magnate added.
Williams said most of SBRC’s equipment had been saved.
He said a water truck and tractors from C.O Williams Construction also assisted in the efforts to contain the fire.
Managing Director of Jose Y Jose, Anderson Cherry was also present to lend his assistance.
He said he had directed several of his trucks to the fire.
The fire also caused the closure of the nearby SSA.
Brian Cozier, owner of the Scrap Metal Yard, also kept a close eye on the fire as his business is situated to the east of SBRC.
He however, said he was not concerned the fire would spread to his business. [email protected]