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Fire Brigade takes informed approach to tackling bush blazes

Published:Monday | November 30, 2015 | 11:00 AMChristopher Serju

THE VAST increase in bush fires, attributed to the protracted drought which led to a strain on its resources, has prompted the Jamaica Fire Brigade to partner with a number of state agencies to come up with a practical, sustainable solution to the growing problem.

This morning, the brigade will officially launch the Community Bush Fire Management Education Progamme at York Park Fire Station, 178 Orange Street, Kingston.

"We need a culture change, because people just light fires without giving any thought to the potential impacts," Assistant Commissioner Sean Martin, officer in charge of fire prevention, told The Gleaner yesterday.

"The destruction of vegetation, crops, property, and risk to lives, is something they only think about after something happens."

In recognition that most farmers view the slash-and-burn technique as a quick, effective method of clearing land, the fire brigade is seeking to educate them about the issue.

"Changing culture is very difficult. You can't just tell people to stop burning without giving them an alternative," Martin said.

For the pilot phase of the project, which will take place in Mavis Bank, St Andrew, and Nain, St Elizabeth, the fire brigade has partnered with the Forestry Department, National Environment and Planning Agency, National Solid Waste Management Authority, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, and Recycling Partners of Jamaica.

With the British High Commission providing £7,000 in seed funding, the plan is to eventually scale up to a national Community Fire and Life Safety Education Programme, subject to the outcome of the pilot.

The all-inclusive approach, in which all stakeholders will have specific roles, will also target schoolchildren in order to get them properly informed at an early age. The idea is to get them involved in a practical way such as through recycling of plastic bottles and giving them an appreciation of the likely impact of indiscriminate fires on their health and the environment.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com