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Manage waste better to reduce fires

by Barbados Today
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Managers of landfills across the country must make a greater effort to minimise the risk of combustion associated with storing waste material, says Barbados Fire Service Chief Errol Maynard.

He was speaking in the wake of three grueling days, during which fire fighters, private waste haulers, the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre (SBRC) and Williams Industries Inc. battled a stubborn blaze at the SBRC’s Vaucluse, St Thomas headquarters.

“The issue with recycling areas, dumps and landfills is that there will inevitably be fires, but you can reduce them by properly managing and storing the waste,” he said.

The fire is the second at a landfill in the area over the last two months and raised questions from affected residents about what could be done to reduce these events.

On Wednesday, Chief Executive Officer of SBRC’s parent company, Williams Industries, Andre Walcott apologised to residents west of the landfill for the fumes.

While officials at a joint press briefing of Government and the private sector could not address preventive measures for future issues, the Chief Fire Officer said: “Proper management is needed, because it will reduce the likelihood.”

“Because of the level of micro bacteria activity and the possibility of spontaneous combustion and all of the different things that are placed in these facilities, there is always the possibility of fire. But the proper management of them will reduce the likelihood of a fire breaking out,” Maynard said.

Though still active on day three, the fire was considerably smaller than before, though smoke continued to affect residents in communities below. Maynard however made a ‘soft’ prediction the threat would be over by the end of Thursday.

Throughout the day, large trucks and trailers could be seen pouring soil and ‘cover’ material on the remaining flames.

“You should see significant clearing today [Thursday], but the weather is a funny thing, so I cannot say it definitively. But as long as all the resources are maintained, then yes, we should complete the task,” said the fire chief.

Though not many fire fighters were involved in the physical effort, Maynard said the fire service was managing the efforts to “make sure it is properly done”.

Contrary to reports from SBRC officials, Maynard said Wednesday’s heavy rain did little to assist the firefight, adding he was thankful for drier conditions, which would allow operations to run smoothly. 

“The amount of rain that fell did not have a significant impact on the fire. In fact, the mud may have slowed down operations more than anything else. The rainfall was simply not enough to extinguish the fire,” he said. 

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