Alarming spike in bush fires worries fire chief

Drivers emerge from blinding smoke along the Uriah Butler Hghway, Caroni, caused by a bush fire on April 13. - JEFF K MAYERS
Drivers emerge from blinding smoke along the Uriah Butler Hghway, Caroni, caused by a bush fire on April 13. - JEFF K MAYERS

THE Fire Services’ Fire Prevention Unit has reported an alarming increase in bush fires across the country after a steady decline over the last five years.

In March 2022, they responded to 262 bush fires but in March, this year, that number has quadrupled. By March 29, fire officers responded to 833 reported cases.

In an interview with Sunday Newsday, on April 12, Chief Fire Officer Arnold Bristo predicts cases will double in April and May.

“In terms of the trends, while we may have increases in what we’re seeing now, the officers are still up to the challenge of dealing with it.

He added: “March and April tend to be the months that we will meet the most amount of cases because of the dryness in the conditions. So we just have to hope and see how it goes and treat it as it comes. We’re hoping that we don’t have any more issues in terms of appliances (breaking down) to make it even more difficult. Nonetheless, we have to continue to do our best.”

Once there is no threat to life and property, Bristo said one way fire officers will deal with bush fires will be to monitor them and only intervene if a threat arises.

“One of the key things for people to do is to maintain the surroundings. Don’t allow the bush to grow up over your surroundings. Keep it low, and don’t discard lighted things, don’t do open inflame. As it is known, if you are required to burn any stuff you must get a fire permit which will allow for monitored burning of those things and the fire service is there to help.”

In early March, during a sit-down interview, head of the Fire Prevention Unit, divisional fire officer Mukharji Rampersad predicted a decline of bush fire for the 2023 dry season, based on the downward trend between 2019-2022 and the relatively low numbers reported between January and February this year.

Between 2019 and 2022, Rampersad said, TT recorded 10,150 bush fires, with 2019 having the highest number – 3,842.

In 2020, TT had 3,674 bush fires. But in March, April and May of that year, there were record high numbers of 941, 1,232 and 1,022, respectively, when compared to the same period in 2019, 2021 and 2022.

Data shared with Sunday Newsday showed 2021 had the lowest number of bush fires reported – 1,087 – over the five-year period. And in 2022, there were 1,547 bush fires.

For the year, so far, there have been 1,342 bush fires.


"Alarming spike in bush fires worries fire chief"

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