BVI News

No clue how fire started or when it will end — Fire Chief

Smoke from the Cox Heath fire is affecting several communities on the western end of Tortola. (BVI News photo captured several days ago.)

Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean has said he does not know when the fire burning at the Cox Heath dump for three weeks will be extinguished; further stating the cause of the blaze may never be ascertained.

“There are literally so many scenarios that could have led to the combustion of material in an environment like this. So, I simply cannot speculate. So, right now, we are dealing with the treatment because we cannot ascertain the cause.”

“There are two problems. Number one — when it comes to sites like these with all manner of materials, it is extremely difficult to decide which one started the fire. Number two — with the consistent and robust burning that is taking place, there is the possibility that it might have destroyed all traces of evidence of causes or clues which could let us know that it started this way or that way,” the fire chief explained.

Nevertheless, Chief McLean said investigations are still ongoing and it will remain open until authorities make a conclusion.

He also said discussions centred around mitigating future fires are ongoing.

More could be done

In an interview with BVI News this week, Chief McLean believes more could be done to fully extinguish the fire.

However, he said there are “certain limitations” that have prevented his team from doing more.

“For example, there could have been more heavy equipment on the scene to do the work. But then, each piece of heavy equipment requires the presence of a pump to keep the materials cool while the heavy equipment is working. However, we are a bit strapped for pumps. We simply don’t have the resources.”

Some five portable pumps belonging to the fire department sustained mechanical failures while combatting the fire.

When will it end?

As the Cox Heath dump continues to emit smoke which affects residents in neighbouring communities, persons are eager to know when the fire will die.

“We have been asked this question multiple times but this is not a call we can make because we are not sure how intense or not intense each subsequent layer would be.”

He said the types of material lying beneath each layer of fire make it difficult to accurately predict when the fire will end.

Weather conditions also make it difficult to determine the lifespan of the fire, Chief McLean added.

“It’s like tourists asking you when the rain is going to start or stop. It’s tough to see and there have been many times we have gone down there and we experience the smoke. But many of us don’t live in that area and after we work, we leave.”

“It’s very hard to know that this is what they (residents) have been experiencing. It really does bother your heart,” he added.

Since the fire, several residents have left their West End homes for other neighbourhoods. Others who have remained continue to complain of constant exposure to the smoke.


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  1. Zapped by a drone, eh? says:

    hopefully, the site was not zapped by a drone

  2. Health Advisory says:

    1. What ongoing information regarding health concerns would be disseminated so residents get preventative treatment now?

    2. What should residents in relation to settlement of smother on their homes, cars and roof tops be doing?

    3. what mechanisms will be put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again, even at the incinerator site?

  3. Oops says:

    Oops…Volcano resurrected!

  4. Seaweed says:

    More could be done to remove the seaweed from the water as well….

  5. Love my bvi says:


    We have a fire chief who cannot deal with, explain, or even extinguish a fire? He sounds competent when relating it to the rain. It makes me feel safe.

  6. Phoenix says:

    Every time I drive by the fire, I see excavators piling more garbage on the fire. Why not pile the wet seaweed (it’s right there) on top to smother it? The excavators are already there.

  7. See says:

    Incomptence .. Why be surprised .

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