A joint public/private effort assisted by heavy showers on Wednesday brought a major blaze at the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre (SBRC) under control.
The thick billowing smoke, which yesterday engulfed the St. Thomas and St. James areas around the Vaucluse, St Thomas centre was reduced to a misty trail covering the large open field, which separates the landfill from hundreds of residents living below.
However during an afternoon press conference called by key Government officials, it still remained unclear how long the fire was likely to continue and the extent of the danger posed by the burning materials.
Minister of the Environment and National Beautification, Trevor Prescod and Home Affairs Minister, Edmund Hinkson however revealed a tremendous amount of manpower from both the public and private sector under the direct supervision of Chief Fire Officer, Errol Maynard, would continue to monitor the situation.
The effort included fire fighters, the SBRC, Sanitation Service Authority (SSA), private waste haulers, the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), and the Ministries of Health and Tourism.
“I am hoping that as long as man has the capacity to resolve these issues, that we will put it to rest within the earliest possible time based on the limitations that we have as human beings,” revealed Trevor Prescod.
Minister Hinkson relying on information from fire officials said the blaze would be contained “within a reasonable time” and stressed the affected communities were his greatest concern.
“We want the public to be assured that we will get this under control as soon as is humanly possible. The most important element in this whole exercise is people and we always have to remember that.
“The wind blows the fire downwind into the constituency of St James Central…and we need to ensure that those who have respiratory and other ailments are adequately looked after. Under the circumstances, the Ministry of Health is here and will ensure that there is access to polyclinics to help look after anyone who is affected. We are satisfied that we have come a long way in the last 24 hours in terms of containing the fire, but clearly there is more to be done,” Hinkson stressed.
Andre Walcott, Chief Executive Officer of Williams Industries, which owns the SBRC stressed that a comprehensive review of surveillance footage revealed no evidence of foul play.
As he apologised to “residents on the west” for the fumes which they have been enduring, Walcott revealed his team has been working to extinguish the fire. He however admitted his men were still attempting to gather key resources that, if available on Tuesday, could have smothered the fire at an early stage.
“The rain that we’re all running from is a Godsend and we need a lot of it, because it is going to be very important for us in this firefight.
“We don’t have the level of soil and cover material that we would normally have…if we had more soil, we would have been able to move a little bit faster to see if we could cover some of the flames, but we are bringing more material by the minute from various quarries and various locations. We have a number of loaders and we just got a commitment of additional haulers and we are battling it. We are going to keep battling it until we’ve got this problem solved,” promised Walcott.
He explained that there was no major economic loss and expressed confidence the SBRC would be operating again “very soon”.
“The most important thing is that there were no injuries to staff or members of the public. We were able to make sure all staff was accounted for and there has been no loss of equipment,” he said.
Government officials meanwhile have promised continuous updates as the situation continues.