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Deadly hunt for scrap metal - Tyres set ablaze exposing hundreds to health risk

Published:Sunday | April 26, 2015 | 4:00 AMRyon Jones
Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer The burning tyres in Riverton City, St Andrew last week as persons moved to get the wires inside for the scrap metal trade.

Hundreds of persons living in Riverton City and nearby communities in the Corporate Area have been

battling smoke nuisance for more than a week as hunters of scrap metal are burning tyres to access the wire inside.

Just 13 days ago, a storage area for discarded tyres located at Westbrook Avenue in Riverton City went up in flames sending thick, black, toxic smoke spiralling into the sky.

Since then, the scrap-metal hunters have tried to keep the fire burning almost constantly as they retrieve the wire inside these tyres in what the fire department has described as a dangerous practice.

"The main thing that we want is for them to come to realise the health hazard they are posing to themselves and other people in the surroundings," said Sean Martin, officer in charge of the Kingston and St Andrew fire brigade.

"Though they might be trying to make a living, they need to ensure that while doing so they don't disenfranchise other people by lighting fires that emit toxic fumes that other people can breathe in. They need to be mindful of other people, and I don't think they are," added Martin.

 

a lot of smoke

 

Since the initial blaze, the Jamaica Fire Brigade has had to send units to the area on three occasions to put out smaller fires, with the most recent being last Friday after our news team reported the matter.

"But each time we go there, at no point you find that the fire is really a massive fire. But tyres generate a lot of smoke, so it doesn't take a big fire to generate a lot of smoke," said Martin, as he revealed that after the initial fire, the fire brigade, with the help of the police, used a tractor to cover the site.

But this has not stopped persons from getting to the tyres. "What they are doing now is actually digging up the covering and exposing the area to oxygen, and where

necessary they light them," Martin said.

"The thing has become common practice in that general vicinity that has been the scene of a lot of fires; they don't seem to understand the risk being posed to their health in terms of the kind of air that they breathe in.

"If you listen to them talk when things happen, it is all about survival and the ability to live rather than living a healthy lifestyle. As a result of that, they will do whatever needs to be done to ensure they earn a dollar. That is the culture in that particular community."

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com