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Fire spike

Concern over the increase in blazes this year

The frequency at which fires are occurring appears to be getting out of control, with 2,445 blazes recorded so far this year, an almost 30 per cent increase over 2013.

Leading the figures are grass fires, which have jumped from 1,075 to 1,372, while cane fires are 44 more than last year’s 89.

Chief Fire Officer Wilfred Marshall told Barbados TODAY that he was very concerned about the increases, particularly those involving private homes, which now stands at 75. That number is 19 more than what was recorded for the same period last year.

Chief FIre Officer Wilfred Marshall

Chief FIre Officer Wilfred Marshall

“Our objective really is to reduce these fires year after year and we’ve been doing a good job in recent years but this year it has climbed up on us and we have to investigate why there is that increase,” he said.

Marshall said while the causes have not been determined in many instances, investigations have shown that some of the blazes were the result of negligence and arson.

“We are concerned about the high increase in structural fires at this time. Earlier this year, we had another significant increase in grass fires and this we attribute to the long dry spell we had in the earlier part of the year. Traditionally, whenever we have a dry season, we have a high incidence of grass fires. This year was longer than usual,” the fire chief explained.

“We have not been able to put our fingers on the exact reason for the increase. We have noticed a couple of arsons and we have been able to identify persons leaving home with lit stoves unattended but we still have a number of them that are under investigation.”

Though he did not provide figures, Marshall acknowledged that many of the destroyed homes were not insured.

It is a situation he said the Barbados Fire Service (BFS) has been attempting to counter with public education.

“We work hand-in-hand with the insurance companies to promote home insurance but, for whatever reason, we still have a number of persons out there who have not yet seen the necessity of insuring their homes,” said Marshall.

“Nevertheless, our Fire Prevention Unit has increased the programmes. We’re going to be celebrating Fire Prevention Week starting October 5 and during that week we’ll be having three sessions . . . at the Princess Margaret School, Queen’s College and Alexandra School where we’ll be reaching out to members of the community to spread our fire prevention and fire safety message.”

Based on the data obtained from the BFS, the number of utility pole fires more than quadrupled to 37, while the number of electrical fires also went up.

Also of particular note was the increase in false calls to the department. Of the 306 on record, 93 of them were deemed to be malicious.

There were 248 false calls last year.

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