Chief Fire Officer Roosevelt Bruce took an early step in warning citizens of the costly consequences of lighting an outdoor fire during the dry season, which runs from January to May. Bruce is preparing for the 2019 dry season and the fires it will inevitably bring by deploying 90 fire guardians trained to oversee outdoor fires that have been granted permits. Anyone setting an outdoor fire without permission can be fined $1,500 or face six months imprisonment.
Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat has warned that an increase in the fine to $20,000 in 2019 is actively being considered. The fire boss also has a new batch of firefighters and is working to get all his fire-fighting vehicles and equipment ready to respond to 990 calls.
While dry shrub is always going to be vulnerable, every step that's taken to improve public awareness of the dangers posed by fire during the dry season will be an important advance in prevention. Last week, a woman known as “Lisa”, who has since been identified as Ayoka Arnold, died in a fire that gutted a board and concrete structure at Sea Lots.
Fires are a dangerous element of daily life in TT and that hazard increases exponentially during the dry season, when bad habits meet ready kindling. Cigarettes flicked out of a car window to land on dry grass, a match tossed out of a kitchen window to land on dry leaves, poorly maintained wiring, both indoors and outdoors that catches an unfortunate spark can all cause millions of dollars in damage and horrific deaths by runaway fires. TT loses an estimated 100 acres to fire in its forests alone each year according to an FAO report filed by the Forestry Division in 2001.
Warning of a harsh dry season also came early from WASA. The water authority has issued restrictions on the use of hoses for wetting gardens and washing cars and clamped down on wet fetes this Carnival season.
According to Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte, WASA’s dams are well stocked, but that only means that there is a need for serious efforts at water conservation to ensure that the supply lasts through the long months ahead.
WASA is, unfortunately, severely handicapped in this conservation race. The utility is facing the steady decline of its 7,500 kilometers of water delivery infrastructure, most of which was laid more than 60 years ago and is well past end of life.
In November 2018, Le Hunte said that WASA has repaired around 20,000 leaks in 2018 and hopes to take that number to 30,000 in 2019. He urged citizens to make use of WASA’s app to report leaks, which will, he promised, improve response times and save water.