Clamp down on deliberate fires
Jamaica has been experiencing very dry and windy conditions, and the situation is not expected to change in the near future. These conditions can make fires spread quickly and cause enormous damage.
It seems to be our culture to get rid of things by lighting fires. Burning rubbish in the backyard and on sidewalks is a popular pastime. In rural Jamaica, many farmers routinely use fire to clear land for planting, commonly known as slash and burn.
Recent fires have been stretching the resources of our fire services. Our firefighters are working with minimum resources and time-worn trucks when responding to a call on a hillside with treacherous terrain. Oblivious to their struggles, we continue to happily light fires with impunity.
It is believed that a recent wildfire in the Guava Ridge area of east rural St Andrew was caused by a careless person disposing of an old mattress by burning.
I appeal to all citizens across Jamaica to be extremely careful with the use of fire. The setting of fire to burn refuse, bush and trash is in breach of The Country Fire Act. The penalty for persons found guilty of setting such a fire is a fine of $40,000 or three months' imprisonment with or without hard labour.
Seeing a beautiful hill on fire pains me, and it grieves me even more when I know someone lit that fire. Let us make it our national duty to educate our people, as most of us do not think through the consequences of our actions.