Today’s Editorial 25: Common sense with fires

A brush fire that burned for five days near the Botanic Park looks like it has finally died out.

But before it subsided on Monday, it consumed some 60 acres of diverse forest, and threatened the Botanic Park itself.

Burned in the fire were some indigenous trees and plants like Ironwood and Banana Orchid, which Department of Environment officials fear are gone forever in the area.

What is the biggest shame about this fire is that it appears to have been set deliberately, because it began in three separate places.

One theory is that it was set with malicious intent. Another theory is that it was set by someone trying to clear land in the area.

Burning to clear land has been done traditionally, especially out in the Eastern Districts, where the majority of pasture lands exist.

However, Grand Cayman is no longer the Grand Cayman of old, and there are more risks to this type of burning.

Because of Hurricane Ivan’s killing of a lot of trees and bushes, there is a lot more dry tinder in the brush for fires to consume.

In addition, there are a lot more home and other utilised land than there used to be, which means fires can threaten more places.

People who want to burn must use common sense and burn within the guidelines of the law.

First, members of the public must get permission from the Department of Environmental Health to burn. Once they get permission, they must consult with the Fire Services, who will set the terms and conditions of the burn.

The Fire Services will insist on some common sense precautions before allowing a burn. Normal vegetation debris would have to be burned in an enclosed container at least 50 feet away from a property line or structure.

A garden hose or buckets of water would need to be kept at ready, and someone would have to be in attendance at the fire at all times.

If land clearing is being done, property owners would have to clear a wide area around their property to ensure the fire does not spread to another property.

Because fire can spread with wind-blown embers, burning should only be done on calm days.

Grand Cayman isn’t very big and development is taking away enough of our native vegetation without having the irresponsible actions of people burning away more.

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