Fire stations in Tobago are being flooded with calls to respond to numerous bush fires across the island, says Divisional Fire Officer for Tobago and Fire County Control Officer David Joseph-Thomas.
This has resulted in adjustments to the permissible burning hours on the island, he told Tobago Today. He said current dry atmospheric conditions and heavy winds are ideal for the spread of wildfires.
“For this week alone, every day we have been called out to attend to anywhere between eight and 15 bush fires at various locations on the island.”
Joseph-Thomas said while in most cases the fires may not have been maliciously set, all the fires were related to human activity.
“A level of consciousness needs to come to the fore and persons need to understand the effects their actions have on their environment and themselves,” he said.
According to Joseph-Thomas, bush fires cost the country over $10 million annually. The costs include firefighting service and loss of property and belongings – including livestock and plants.
“When you add that to the cost of fuel and manpower and water when you make these responses to these instances, what we expend to treat with these fires that could have been spent on something else like healthcare and social service,” Joseph-Thomas said.
Joseph-Thomas said specific guidelines have also been put in place to govern provisional fire permits in Tobago.
“In Tobago, permits will be issued for people to burn within the hours of 6 am and 8 am only.”
He said the guideline was implemented as it is easier to notice if the fire spreads during this time of the day, as people are up and about. He urged people to be mindful of how they go about lighting fires.
“If you must light get a permit because it allows the fire guardian to come to your property, advise you on when you should burn, advise you on when to burn, allow you to put the proper structures in place if you are going to burn,” Joseph-Thomas said.
He said once the guidelines are followed, fire officers will be able to put the necessary suppression systems in place to contain the fires.