LET me start this week’s contribution by offering my sincerest condolences to the families of persons who lost their lives in the recent fires and to sympathise with those who lost their homes and in some cases all of their belongings.
There is a saying that Barbadians run from water and run to fire, but this writer would argue that many Barbadians are acutely aware of the dangers associated with fire if not quickly contained, particularly in densely populated areas.
However, some fires are accidental, others are caused by negligence, while some sadly are started maliciously.
Recently this writer had the experience of trying to extinguish a fire at the rear of our property, which was started in the dead of the night by a neighbour. Though it was contained to some extent, the awesome power and heat was overwhelming and the dry conditions of the surrounding grassy area was a definite concern. A garden hose was totally useless and after some debate we decided the risk was simply too great and the Barbados Fire Service had to be called in.
In recent days we’ve seen the damage that was caused on the highway where in one instance visibility was so low from the huge plumes of smoke that it resulted in a vehicular smash-up. Thankfully the RBPF arrived and were able to redirect traffic to avoid further danger. One can only lament the loss or damage of those trees that so beautifully lined that section of the highway.
Let’s face it, it’s hot, dry and Barbados is water scarce. Right now, with so many persons dealing with their own persistent health challenges, particularly those who have sinus problems, are literally suffering from the incessant burning. It is true that it is a perennial problem, but usually as a result of smaller fires from inconsiderate neighbours. Now we have large open fields being burned and sending the smoke for miles. How can they escape?
At the end of the day while we have faith in the hard working Fire Service, we cannot afford to waste resources by having them rush to every fire that is lit. There are residents who call the Fire Service, whether a fire is at their front gate or maybe even a mile or more away do so out of fear. Certainly if there is anything that we know from Mother Nature, it is that the wind direction like everything else she brings is largely unpredictable, therefore one could imagine the legitimately amplified fears that persons could have about losing their homes in a blaze.
All in all, we need to ensure that we maintain our vigilance. “It only takes a spark to get a fire going,” as Kurt Kaiser’s popular “Pass it On” beautifully states. Perhaps in the same way that we stress the importance of being careful at Christmas, we need to step up public education throughout the year, but particularly during these dry periods. Let us preserve our precious water and most importantly, let us safeguard lives.