The Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service has reported over 150 bushfires for 2023 and fire fighters are now also urging the public to be careful with setting fire outdoors in the wake of two major bushfires this week in El Socorro and La Brea.
Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday, head of the TTFS Northern Division, Assistant Chief Fire Officer Earl Sampson, said the dumping of waste such as tyres, domestic appliances and e-waste are now posing a new challenge for them during the dry season. He said when such material burns it poses a health and environmental risk for his fire officers, the public and the environment.
For the year thus far, the Fire Service has reported 64 bushfires in January and 92 in February, which has already surpassed last year’s reported figures.
“We are in the height of the dry season, or otherwise known as the bushfire season, which runs from December to June 30th. We are in the third month of the year, in the middle of March, and we have been encountering numerous bush fires. These fires are started by persons or persons unknown, sometimes they are known, they are actually found at the sites at times. Fires are started by persons clearing land for agriculture for planting. Fires are started by people simply burning rubbish at the back of their properties, not understanding the dryness and not understanding the consequences of the actions. Of course, there are instances when there may be discarded cigarette butts and a host of other reasons and causes of these fires.”
He said the issue of indiscriminate dumping of rubbish and other waste has created a major problem for them this year.
“People have been dumping combustible materials that have added to the woes that the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service in responding to these incidents. It is now adding an additional source of concern to us,” ACF Sampson said.
Giving an example, he said the Fire Service on Thursday battled a major bushfire in El Socorro, San Juan, in an rea which turned out to be an illegal waste dump.
“Over the last two days, and we encountered for instance yesterday (Thursday) in the El Socorro South area, what was a bushfire turned out to be a dump for tyres and you would see from the videos the number of tyres that we encountered, the officers encountered,” he said.
“There was another fire in the Cunupia area that the Tunapuna fire stations responded to and the officer reported encountering the exact same phenomenon. El Socorro fire was so overwhelming, the officers had to employ the use of foam, in addition with the help of an excavator owned by residents. A resident in the area was able to utilise sand and dirt to assist in bringing the fire under control. One day after, we returned to the site and the area still has smouldering tyres left by the effects of the fire.”
He added, “I can’t begin to emphasise to Trinidad and Tobago the environmental impact of these tyres. So, oftentimes, people are not cognizant of the effects of their actions. So, this is an appeal to Trinidad and Tobago, we are at the height of the bushfire season that requires a fire permit for burning any outdoor fires. Fire permits can be obtained at fire stations nearest to you. You will be advised by a fire guardian as to what you should and shouldn’t do if you indicate that you have lands to clear or burn.
“So, as we continue, we have three months left or two, Trinidad and Tobago we want to appeal, if you look around you would recognise how dry our environment is. You would recognise that there are fires burning all around.”