Thick smoke spiralling from a bush fire near some oil installations at Point Fortin is forcing some residents to evacuate their homes.
Among those fleeing the area are residents of Wilson Street, Richardson Street, Morrison Street, Taylor Street, Canaan Road, Archer Street and Volunteer Road. Many include pensioners and young children who are unable to cope with the blinding smoke.
Residents said yesterday that the fire has been burning for three days and already they are experiencing chest and throat pains, excruciating headaches and shortness of breath.
Guardian reporter Rishard Khan also began feeling unwell after spending half-an-hour in the area.
In an interview, resident Althea Williams said she was concerned about the spread of the flames.
“I want the Minister of National Security to look into this because it is burning near the oil installations. The amount of smoke and soot is unbearable. I have lived here all my life and this is the first time I’ve ever seen this constant burning,” Williams said.
She said normally, Petrotrin would deal with any fires that flared in the community but this time Williams said the fire was burning too long.
“What is troubling is the Petrotrin fire services have been disbanded and the government fire stations seem unable to handle it. This is really unacceptable,” she said.
Saying T&T is an oil producing country, Williams contended that the T&T Fire Service should have had the necessary equipment to deal with the fire.
A pensioner, who requested anonymity, said the fire has been burning two streets away from the Point Fortin Area Hospital, covering a radius of several hundred metres.
“If it continues like this, more people will fall sick,” she added.
A source from the Point Fortin Fire Station said they had been battling with the fire since Saturday. He explained that because of the soil composition, the fire has been reigniting but they have been actively monitoring the fire.
In an interview yesterday, Point Fortin Mayor Abdon Mason said the fire had been extinguished three times since Saturday. Asked whether he was satisfied that enough was being done to contain the fire, Mason said, “There is no fire, only smoke.”
Pressed further Mason said, “Satisfaction is a relative term. I know the relevant authorities are responding and I hope they can get it extinguished as soon as possible.”
Asked whether he was concerned that oil installations nearby could explode with the fire spread, Mason said, “No, there would not be an explosion.”
He said it was normal to have that kind of fire.
“It is one of the perils of living in an oil area. Those residents who say it is the first time they are seeing the fire burning so long are being less ingenious,” he said.
A Heritage Petroleum official last night said they had visited the scene to check on their installations in the area.
“Heritage Petroleum confirms we have investigated the incident and none of our installations have been burnt or are being threatened by the fire,” the official said.
“We are and have been continuously monitoring our installations for any threat by what is obviously a large bush fire. We have been in touch with the T&T Fire Service, who have been handling the situation.”