Residents who under curfew regulations can no longer take garden waste to the landfill or have it removed by landscapers have been burning the rubbish in bonfires in their yards, according to Cayman Islands Fire Service officials.

The Fire Service now is urging the public to follow guidelines when having a backyard bonfire after seeing an increase in reports of such fires in recent weeks.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Roy Charlton said the Fire Service believes the increase has been driven by current measures in place to suppress the spread of COVID-19.

“We understand that residents may have previously taken their own garden waste to the landfill or had it removed by landscapers and are now looking for alternative options to get rid of it,” he said.

However, he warned that bonfires can become dangerous “if not properly controlled”.

Under the current ‘shelter in place’ regulations, landscaping is prohibited, which had left homeowners to deal with pruning and clearing of their shrubbery on their own.

Charlton said there are simple steps homeowners can follow to manage garden waste effectively and stay safe.

The public is reminded that burning general waste on private property is prohibited by law.

Mulching or composting leaves for use elsewhere in the garden, he said, is a more environmental choice instead of burning.

“Smoke from bonfires can impact people’s health, particularly for those with existing or underlying respiratory concerns such as asthma or COVID-19. Small children and the elderly are more likely to be impacted by the effects of smoke,” the Fire Service statement said.

The Fire Service reminded residents to be considerate of surrounding neighbours as smoke may become a nuisance. Additionally, under windy conditions, a bonfire may become dangerous and difficult to control.

“Most importantly, residents should call 911 in the event of an emergency,” the statement added.

If residents choose to light a bonfire, the Fire Service advises:

  • Only burn dry material as damp material causes more smoke.
  • Keep a bucket of water or garden hose nearby in case of emergencies.
  • Don’t leave the bonfire unattended.
  • Don’t use gas or any other fuels to get the fire going as it may get out of control quickly.
  • Don’t burn anything close to your house, shed, fence or under electrical wires and cables.
  • Don’t burn aerosols, tyres, canisters or anything containing foam or paint. Many produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode causing injury.

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