March 19, 2010
Kings Hill Forest Reserve set ablaze

Persons bent on maliciously setting bush fires will be dealt with according to law.{{more}}

The warning comes after the Forestry Department had to respond to a forest fire deep in the King’s Hill Reserve last Friday, March 12, where over an acre of crown land was affected.

Forestry officials were not able to make a definite determination of whether the fire was intentional, as the responding team says it focused on containing the fire.

However, according to Casmus McLeod, Forestry Supervisor, based on where the fire started, compounded by the fact that people live on the fringe of the forest, it appears as though the fire was maliciously set.

The fire destroyed the undergrowth, and in some instances spread to the middle and upper growth of the forest, which forestry officials say made the task of controlling the fire extremely difficult.

The damage caused was not immediately deduced. However, the area is diverse in flora and fauna.

“We cannot give a direct value due to the multiplicity of species in the area – we have species people don’t even know the importance of, and their names,” McLeod told SEARCHLIGHT.

Apart from providing a natural habitat for wildlife, McLeod said that the King’s Hill Reserve was instrumental in climate control, as all forests typically do.

The threat of fires to the properties of nearby residents also posed additional risks.

“Sometimes people see these things as simple, but the extent of the damage and what it can cause is serious,” McLeod contended.

“So then it is important for people to know that it is dangerous to be lighting these fires, and that there is a penalty for doing so.”

Keith Miller, Commissioner of Police, in a press conference last week, said that officers of the Criminal Investigations Department were among the personnel present on the scene of a forest and/ or bush fire.

He added that should any investigation determine the fire was intentionally set and the perpetrator found, action will be taken against them and they will be brought before the court.

“Because it’s a very dangerous practice,” Miller said.

“Could you imagine what a bush fire could cause in one of the residential areas?”

To date, at least two homes have been affected by bush fires.

Meanwhile, the Forestry Department says that it is depending on members of the general public to report any fires as early as possible.

McLeod said that due to the lack of human and fire fighting resources, more could be done if the relevant authorities are summoned early enough.