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Hire aircraft to fight Riverton fires - Holness

Published:Monday | March 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness speaks during the Budget Debate in Parliament last Thursday.
A Jamaica Defence Force helicopter transporting water to help suppress a bush fire in Jacks Hill.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness says the Jamaican Government should consider entering into arrangements with service providers for the use of aircraft to fight fires at the Riverton City dump in the Corporate Area.

Holness, while speaking during the 2015-2016 Budget Debate in Parliament last Thursday, said the medium- to long-term objective should be to divest the dump.

"In the meantime, the government, through the Jamaica Defence Force or the Jamaica Fire Brigade, should explore, and, if possible, secure or contract on a standby basis, the services of firefighting aircraft that, in the event of another major outbreak, could be mobilised to help contain and bring the fire under control more rapidly with airdrops of fire retardants," Holness said.

"This would assist the on the ground activity of the firefighters," he added.

Holness' firefighting-from-above comment comes in the wake of a massive fire at the dump, which has taken more than a week to be extinguished.

He said it is the policy of the Labour Party to divest the dump to competent operators, who are willing to make the necessary investments to create a green landfill.

"The dump sits on over 100 acres, has access to water and is close to the ports. These are further assets that can be leveraged in any divestment plan, as a properly managed landfill, apart from recycling, should also have the prospect of being a waste-to-energy generator," Holness said.

At the same time, Holness said the dump must be relocated.

"We cannot continue to have a dump in the middle of residential areas. The continued emissions of hazardous chemicals and numerous fires are putting the residents of Kingston and St Andrew at risk. We need to find a new location and ensure that a modern landfill is created. This is the only way to move Jamaica from poverty to prosperity," Holness said.