The hierarchy of the Fire Department has appealed to the general public to be more aware as the number of recorded house fires for 2017 hit 18 within the first four months of this year.
In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, Deputy Fire Chief, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Joel James said that the Fire Department has never recorded this many fires in one year.
âThis is the fourth month in the year and this is too many house fires!â he declared.
So far, apart from the 18 reported house fires, SVG also recorded 23 bush fires and three vehicular fires between January and April. As a result, two persons have died and three were injured.
In January, four wooden houses were destroyed by fire in the areas of Ottley Hall, Old Montrose, Lowmans Windward and Stubbs â an estimated loss of EC$138,000.
Dillon Antoine, a 23-year-old Lowmans resident, was also injured and the damage to his home was estimated at about $80,000.
In February, a total of six house fires were recorded at an estimated loss of $34,000 and two lives, a one-year-old infant and 42-year-old Andrew Nero of Green Hill were lost. These fires were recorded in the areas of Glen, Ottley Hall, Green Hill, Enhams and Kingstown Park.
Meanwhile, the month of March saw four reported house fires with an estimated damage of $482,000 in Questelles, New Montrose, Georgetown and Biabou, but with no reported injuries or deaths.
The New Montrose fire damage at the residence of Stephen Gaymes was estimated at $460,000.
Additionally, the month of April saw four fires, in the areas of Villa, Vermont and Ratho Mill. In the Vermont fire, Elroy Brown, 56, was hospitalized. There were no recorded deaths and these fires recorded an estimated damage of $35,000.
Speaking with SEARCHLIGHT, ASP James attributed the house fires to persons being complacent and negligent.
âSome of them will go to sleep leaving pots on fires; some of them would be sitting in a chair smoking and fall asleep and then you would find a cigarette may fall out of their mouths and into chairs or beds,â he said, adding that from their assessment most house fires would have started in either the kitchen or bedroom.
The deputy fire chief said some person would have also left their children unattended at home and because most of them do not have electricity at their houses, they would often leave a lit candle.
âAnd then because they did not return on time, that candle would burn down and ignite on some combustible material, causing the entire building to be engulfed, that is in most cases.â
In light of this, James noted that over the years the department has been conducting educational programmes and sensitization as it relates to fire prevention and the dangers of bush fires.
However, he said that although there were several outreach programmes over the years, it is very difficult to reach some people, because they often do not listen to radio or television programmes.
He added, however, that the fire department is trying many other avenues to reach the perpetrators, including using social media.
James said that the department is currently trying to target schoolchildren, because they are the perpetrators behind some fires.
âWe believe if we start with the children, we would also reach the parents, because they can take the information home, especially as some of them like to experiment with fires.â
Moreover, the deputy fire chief is calling on the general public to be more aware.
âFor example, if a person is leaving their home and they have children, please take their children along with them, because when children are left unattended they tend to experiment with many things.â
James also appealed to persons involved in preparing meals to always cover their pots and pans, especially when using hot oils.
The deputy fire chief disclosed that the fire department is always willing to assist persons as it relates to the use of fire extinguishers and noted that a lot of places have extinguishers, but employees do not know how to use them.
Speaking on Star Radio on Wednesday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, while commenting on the worrying high number of house fires in 2017 so far, said he has asked Permanent Secretary Godfred Pompey to source two fire tenders to be housed at Georgetown and Barrouallie.
The general public can report cases of arson or fires by calling the Central Police Station at 457-1211. If they wish to make a report they could contact either the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) or the Fire Department. (AS)