Fire threatens park

The Cayman Islands Fire Service and the Department of Environment were keeping a close eye this weekend on a forest and brush fire that had come within a half-mile of Botanic Park.

Spray plane

The Mosquito Research and Control Unit spray plane helped fight a bush fire on Thursday, dropping water in an area just north of the Botanic Park and east of Frank Sound Road. National Trust general manager Frank Roulstone captured this image around 5pm.

The fire, which is believed to have destroyed between 50 to 100 acres of thick vegetation, started sometime last week, possibly Wednesday.

Although fire officials declined to comment on what sparked the blaze, both the DoE and Botanic Park staff said they believed it was intentionally set.

‘The people who saw the fire first noticed that it…started in several places,’ said DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie.

Ms Ebanks-Petrie said she had reports that someone trying to clear land had started the burning which later got out of control.

However, Botanic Park General Manager Andrew Guthrie said his staff had received different information.

‘We have reason to believe it was intentionally set…somebody just setting it to set it,’ Mr. Guthrie said.

A plane from the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, normally used to spray pesticides, was instead dropping thousands of gallons of water on the flames. By Friday, the fire was largely just smoldering, but hot-spots were still causing flames to flare up.

A fire service official said the plane had to be used because there was no way to drive pumper trucks into the vegetation to put out the flames.

Mr. Guthrie said the flare-ups create a nerve wracking situation for the park.

‘Anything in the park can be threatened, the iguana programme…all those animals in captivity,’ he said. ‘If the park burned it would be devastating for us.’

Ms Ebanks-Petrie said significant damage to Cayman’s eco-system has already been done.

‘Obviously, everybody is very concerned about the threat to the park,’ she said. ‘But also we know that we have lost quite a lot of our dry forest out there.’

‘We just haven’t, as a country, recognised this before as a possible threat. The hurricane (Ivan) left a lot of vegetative debris around. There’s just a lot more dry tinder for fires around than there may have been in years gone by.’

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