Retirement landfill reportedly set ablaze
The Retirement landfill in St James was lit on Wednesday and New Year's Day, with indications that they were not celebratory bonfires, but the work of arsonists.
Director of Operations at the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) Percy Stewart told The Gleaner that the landfill is suspected to have been set ablaze only days before the authorities are scheduled to remove squatters from the area.
"There was never a fire before where the blaze is located," emphasised Stewart. "It is not like the one that was already there (since Wednesday) spreading to new areas, as it's some distance away."
Stewart told The Gleaner that eyewitnesses also claimed that they saw persons setting the landfill on fire.
"The site is loaded with persons setting up dwellings. The team down here is trying to get them off," he said.
Stewart suggested that the squatters are aware of instructions given to the team on the ground to get them off the property with the assistance of the police and soldiers.
"They know that we had the operations slated for this January," he stressed. "We completed the Riverton City landfill (in the Corporate Area) and are about to start Retirement."
Stewart disclosed that plans are well advanced to clear the site as has been done with the Riverton dump in the aftermath of last year's massive fire there.
It was in March 2014 that firefighters also had to be called in to fight a fire at Retirement.
Stewart said that landfill sites, in general, are difficult to police. "This is the case, in particular, with Retirement, given its location," he asserted.
He stressed that the St James Parish Council needed to give the agency more of its land that is available to enable it to expand and better manage the landfill.
"We can't manage the city dump within the limited expanse that we have; its just not possible," declared Stewart.
He said the firefighters were yesterday challenged because of the wind pattern. "It carries the smoke within the two mountains and it takes it straight into the Bogue Basin," he said. "Because of that, the area appears to be overcast."
He said he had received complaints from citizens in the Pitsfour area.
As the firefighters combatted the blaze, law-enforcement officers were out manning the landfill. "The police are assisting us in trying to keep every Tom, Dick and Harry off the landfill," said Stewart.
He disclosed that the NSWMA has two pieces of heavy-duty equipment on location. "As soon as the fire brigade gets out of the way, we will start to put marl covering on the areas where the fire has been entirely extinguished."