Large piles of vegetation that went up in flames in Bodden Town could burn for days, fire officials said on Tuesday.
The blaze, which started around noon Tuesday, blanketed several homes with plumes of smoke in the neighborhoods around Pease Bay, including government affordable homes on Sitwell Road, near Belford Drive.
The plumes covered the afternoon sun like a blanket of dark clouds and showered the area with black soot, forcing residents to close their windows and door.
At one point, the heavy plumes of smoke could be seen on the George Town skyline by residents and workers.
“It was a lot of smoke around my house. It had me frightened as if my house was on fire,” said Meredith Clarke, a resident of Sitwell Road, who arrived home around 5 p.m. Tuesday to see the smoke.
“The black smoke went high up in the air. All last night and early Wednesday morning, before I left work, the smoke was still there,” she said.
The fire is burning in a spot of around 30,000 square feet in the Pease Bay Bodden Town Quarry, which belongs to quarry developer Justin Wood.
Touring the burn site Tuesday, Cayman Fire Chief David Hails said it was not apparent if the fire caught accidentally or was lit by someone.
“Probably we will never know the answer to that.” Mr. Hails said.
Someone saw the smoke and called it in to 911, and the Frank Sound unit responded, said fire officer Roy Charlton, while touring the area along with Mr. Hails.
“A lot of the stuff that is piled up there is just organic material, trees, mixed with soil, bush and very little manufactured materials,” Mr. Hails said.
“It would be impossible for us to try to put it out [or] pull it all apart, which could take weeks,” he added. “We just don’t know what’s in the burning heaps … it could be cylinders or something like that, which could go bang, injuring someone or damaging the machinery,”
For safety reasons, he said, they would refrain from putting water on it because contaminates could run off into the quarry lakes.
“The best option right now is to just let it burn,” Mr. Hails said.
“Once it’s not endangering anything, it can burn.… Smoke will be the biggest problem for residents but [there’s] really nothing we can do about it,” added Mr. Charlton.
Mr. Hails said for now the Fire Service will monitor the situation.
He said he would notify the police department and send out advisories to residents to keep their windows and doors shut until the smoke died down.
“It is only supposed to be like vegetable trimmings in the heaps, but you know some people will disobey what they are told, and you get this happening, and something could catch it fire,” quarry owner Mr. Wood told the Cayman Compass.
He said most of the materials at the site are from cleared properties, and contain garden material and tree trimmings. “The idea is to shed it down and make it biodegradable, so it can be mixed with other soil to get the nutrients back,” he said. Mr. Wood said he uses the mulch on his vegetable farm.
He added, “It’s water on both sides and the fire is in the middle, so there’s nowhere for the fire to spread and puts no persons at risk.”