Few could forget the plumes of smoke spewing from the large landfill fire in early March, which the Cayman Islands Fire Service teams fought in extremely dangerous conditions.

The adjacent Esterley Tibbetts Highway was closed to motorists; nearby businesses, restaurants and schools were forced to shut; residents were evacuated from close-by complexes and neighbourhoods; and cruise ships shifted docking sites south or changed routes to avoid Cayman.

While it may have been the biggest, this was not the first landfill fire fought by CIFS. The Economics and Statistics Office’s Compendium of Statistics records show that there were 40 in 2011, 39 in 2012, 15 in 2013, 27 in 2014, nine in 2015, one in both 2016 and 2017, and three in 2018. These events are stark and large-scale reminders of the danger and power of fires.

As well as landfill fires, which require a massive response, The Cayman Islands Fire Service, Domestic section, deals with a high number of calls per year, with 1,686 in 2018 specifically. These range from structural fires, to brush fires, to motor vehicle fires to landfill fires.

Household fires

When it comes to household fires, it pays to have a plan in place for the prevention of fires.
“Tragically, the most common household fires are found to have been preventable as long as the residents understood the risks present and took the necessary action,” said Deputy Chief Fire Officer for Domestic, Roy Charlton.

“Fires at home can cause immense damage to property and significantly impact lives. Everyone has a responsibility to themselves, their family and the broader community to make their home as safe as possible.”

It also pays to have a plan in place for if a fire does occur.

Regularly tested and serviced smoke alarms in your home, as well as other fire control equipment such as fire blankets, fire extinguishers and heat alarms, will allow for quick discovery or extinguishment of a fire, if neccessary.

Most importantly it is important to follow the CIFS advice: Get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1.

“If individuals do come across a fire, whether at home, at work or elsewhere, the right thing to do is always to get out of the area, stay out and call 9-1-1 immediately,” said Charlton. “Fires can be challenging and unpredictable to control without the proper training. Always leave it to the professionals.”

Effects of smoke inhalation

Following the March landfill fire, some people sought medical treatment.

Smoke inhalation is a danger, no matter what type of fire, and causes the airways and lungs to become irritated, swollen and blocked. Oxygen may be prevented from entering the blood stream due to this, and respiratory failure can occur.

Symptoms may include:

  • Coughing and hoarseness
  • Sinus irritation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Vision problems
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Cardiovascular abnormalities

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