‘The perfect firestorm’

Fire service resources stretched to the limit

The perfect firestorm!

That’s how one senior ranking official with the Barbados Fire Service described today, as officers battled 28 fires, two of which consumed the homes of families from St Philip.

This is what remains of the three bedroom house that Vincent Best called home.
This is what remains of the three bedroom house that Vincent Best called home.

Divisional Officer for the South, Errol Gaskin, told Barbados TODAY this evening that the blazes were stretching the service to the limit.

“Right now we have all the units deployed. That is about six appliances and about 40 personnel. For the last eight hours it has been going like that. All of our resources are out. We have had the Roving Response Team out and they have a light duty water cart, which helps us to go in the remote areas and some of the grass sections.

“Under these conditions, the assistance is appreciated because things are really rough. Today was a strain,” he said. Just after 3:15 this evening, officers battling fires in the easterly St Philip parish were called to a fire at a residence at #187 Mandalay Gardens, Mangrove.

“When we arrived, the rear of this two-storey structure was lit. When the first [of two] appliance[s] arrived, it successfully attacked the [blaze] and extinguished it.”

That fire damaged the top floor of the residence, which he noted was owned by Anthony Leacock and Laurilyn Caddle.

While attending that incident, another call came about a second structural blaze at Heddings, a stone’s throw away. A unit was diverted from the airport, and another from the scene at Mangrove, but despite a somewhat quick response, the three-bedroom wall structure, which was owned by Vincent Best, a Government security guard, was completely destroyed, a grass fire in the area being pointed to as the cause.

Dry conditions, mixed with the high winds, have prompted fire officials to urge Barbadians to desist from lighting fires outdoors. This, as teams this morning were dispatched to battle one of the day’s more extensive bush fires that began at Oldbury, St Philip, and swept over a wide expanse of farmland, reaching as far as Hopefield Plantation in Christ Church.

“ . . . If burning outdoors can’t be avoided, residents should make sure they have a supply of water in the event the flames begin to spread,” advised Station Officer Mervin Mayers today, as fire officers from the Worthing Fire Station worked hard to extinguish the blaze that began on Tuesday night –– one of the latest in almost daily bush fires. Another bush fire also occurred in Bannantyne, Christ Church.

When a Barbados TODAY team visited the scene just after 10 a.m, the fire had already swept across a field of recently cut canes at Spencers Plantation, Christ Church, and had reached Hopefield Plantation. Fortunately for sugar officials, most of the canes in the wide expanse of farmland had already been cut, leaving only river tamarind and bush exposed to the fire.

The senior fire officer said one fire tender kept watch over the fire during the night and it was replaced by another fire tender around 10:30 today.

“Every day and night it is the same thing –– bush fires sweeping across the country. I do not know what is going on in the island. If people must light a fire outdoors, they should have a hose or a drum of water close by in the event the fire begins to spread,” Mayers said.

Meanwhile, several of the residents living in downwind districts such as Fairview, Lead Vale and Coverly, Christ Church, experienced some discomfort from the heavy smoke that had drifted into their districts.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Neville Humphrey, who runs a chicken farm at Lead Vale, said the smoke was affecting his allergies. At Fairview, an eldery lady who lived in the district all her life said: “We have had this problem from the time I was a child. Fires used to start as far east as Three Houses in St Philip. “In the early days the the land to the east of Fairview was under sugar cane, but today it is only bush.”

Businessman Carrington Smith, who runs a shop at Fairview, said he had grown accustomed to bush fires at this time of the year. Sixty-one year old William Atherley who lives in the area also pleaded with people to desist from lighting fires outside. (RG/NC)

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