The Virgin Islands Fire & Rescue Service is reminding individuals that it has the legal authority to put out backyard fires that endanger the health of others.
In an interview with 284 Media on October 12, Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean said his department often receives complaints from persons who are simply unable to bear the smoke of backyard fires.
He said once calls are received, his department is left with no choice but to ensure such fires are put out.
“We are obligated to respond when we are called. So if you have people who are burning something in their yard or on their land and it’s affecting someone else, we have to go,” McLean explained.
He said in some instances, persons who are asthmatic have had to run from their homes because of fires that endangered their health.
Persons who start backyard fires are also being warned that they have a responsibility to put them out once neighbours complain that they are being affected.
“If you have a piece of land and you want to burn something it’s your land you can do what you want to. But as soon as the smoke begins to affect someone else, then you are responsible. You are responsible for controlling it, you are responsible for putting it out and if you don’t we are going to come in. We are backed by the law. We cannot refuse to respond,” McLean explained.
He confessed that he does understand that backyard burning is often a last resort because of the infrequent garbage collection.
“But on the flip side you have persons whose health is being compromised by inhaling all these particulars,” McLean explained.
He said backyard burning will be a major focus of Fire Safety Week which is being observed from October 11 to 17.
Backyard burning has been a longstanding environmental and social issue in the BVI. In September, McLean had reported that there was a 50 percent decline in the number of reports to his department.
He said the decline in reported cases could be because people are aware that their backyard fires could affect many people who are at home more often due to the numerous curfews that have been implemented.
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