Who is burning down St Mary countryside?
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Over the past couple of months, I have had to make regular trips from Kingston to St Mary, travelling through the Junction road. On each trip, I have been alarmed at the increasing amount of countryside that has been burned over the period.
Driving through Devon Pen to Broadgate, one can see large sections of hillside covering scores of acres burnt out, and then from Broadgate to the coast road roundabout, large areas along the roadside, hillsides and into the Wag Water valley itself have been burned to a crisp, marring the once beautiful landscape.
While bush fires are to be expected during any dry season, the extent, distribution and regularity of the fires seen along this stretch suggests something more than just a random or accidental occurrence.
Passing through the Broadgate area on a Friday evening around two weeks ago, I observed another large section of hillside going up in flames and smoke, so I stopped and spoke with a middle-age gentleman who lived in the area, and asked him if he knew what was happening to cause all these large fires.
His answer disturbed me: "Is some idle people lightin' di fire dem fi fun," I was told; and apparently no one in the area was able to stop the culprits. Sure enough, a week later when driving through the stretch of road from Broadgate to the new bridge leading to Highgate, almost everything on both sides of the road for over a mile, including banana plantations, trees and large areas of bamboo close to residences, were freshly burned to the ground and still smouldering.
But unfortunately, this is not the only area suffering this fate. Further along the coast road heading to Port Maria, between the town of Albany and the Whitehall area and beyond, there are also numerous areas along and close to the roadside, including coconut plantations, that have been consumed by fires over the past few weeks, apparently set deliberately.
UNRESPONSIVE FIRE UNIT
One of these was ablaze and spreading through acres of shrubbery when I drove through again last weekend. Seeing a group of ladies selling fruits a little further down the road, I stopped and asked them what was causing so many fires in that area. They told me that for the past couple of weeks, someone seemed to be lighting the fires deliberately almost every day, and when they called the fire department, they were told that if 'no houses were burning down', they could not send a unit. The ladies I spoke with seemed quite distressed about the matter.
It would appear, then, that someone or some persons in those areas are systematically setting fire to large sections of the St Mary countryside, and clearly not even as part of any slash-and-burn agricultural venture.
While I appreciate that our fire brigade is stretched and challenged regarding resources in certain areas, may I suggest that representatives from the brigade, perhaps along with some members of the police force, organise some community meetings with residents in these areas to address the problem and hopefully put an end to it?
It really burns my heart to see so much of what was once a beautiful landscape and countryside going up in flames like that - especially if it is at the hands of sick minds 'doing it fi fun'.