The British Virgin Islands has had an overwhelming number of fires since the start of the year and is now at high risk for more fire disasters that potentially could be major.
This is according to Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean who told BVI News the territory has recorded an unusually high average of six fires per month since January 2019.
“So far, we’ve had 35 bush fires. We’ve had 30 in Tortola, three in Virgin Gorda, and two in Jost Van Dyke,” the Fire Chief said.
“What had happened in the past is that we’ve had an increase of bush fires during the summer months between July and August. But we’ve not had such a high number of bush fires early in the year as we have this year,” he added.
Uneasy, active summer period predicted
McLean said this alarming number puts the fire department at “great unease” for what is anticipated to be an active summer period since fires are known to happen then.
“As you know, during the summer you have a lot of different activities. And then you have children who are out of school may try to find interesting activities to occupy their time so it does raise some concerns for us,” he said.
The Chief also explained why his department has been constantly urging the public to cease burning of all kinds. He said the territory’s current drought-like conditions coupled with its high temperatures create ‘a recipe for disaster’.
“If you look at the hills, you would see that the hills are dry from one end to the other. And as far as you can see, if we happen to get a major fire on any part of the hill, it’s going to be burning and burning at the will of the wind and we may actually end up with a situation similar to what they have in places like California. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to tackle those fires” McLean furthered.
Back in November last year, the US state of California experienced what was the ‘deadliest and most destructive fire in the state’s history’. It resulted in 85 civilian deaths and destroyed 90
Major fire would significantly deplete resources
Chief McLean said the high likelihood of a major fire also does not spell well for the territory because such a disaster would cost the consumers and the wider publics’ limited resources.
“If we have to come and out a major fire, obviously we’re going to use water. So we’re going to be tapping into the resources that the Water and Sewage Department would usually have to provide to their customers as well as tapping into the cisterns the private owners would have saved for their regular use,” McLean explained.
On the upside, the Fire Chief said the number of house fires to date has been down slightly in comparison to the corresponding period last year.
He said: “We’ve had five house fires so far — four on Tortola and one on Virgin Gorda.”
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