As the Ministry of Communications and Works continues its educational energy campaign encouraging persons to reduce, reuse and recycle, the team at the Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Service department is advising persons to refrain from backyard burning.
Acting Chief Fire Officer, Mr. William W. Penn says backyard burning continues to be a challenge for many residents of the Virgin Islands.
He revealed that reports to the department show an increase in backyard burning from 2014 to 2015. He confirmed that in 2015 the department responded to over 50 reports of backyard, coal pit or pasture fires and that 15 reports have already been made in 2016.
Mr. Penn said, “Backyard or pasture burning can be a nuisance to neighbours, adversely affecting persons with asthma, causing respiratory problems, negatively impacting the environment and contributing to global warming. We all need to keep these things in mind before we light a fire.”
Additionally, he said the department observed that persons are burning household items like clothing, plastic and paper in their yards which he described as being dangerous to the health of people and the environment.
Mr. Penn said, historically, it was customary for persons to engage in pasture, backyard and coal pit burning. However, as the Territory continues to experience growth, with residential areas being developed and populated and with more homes being built, backyard burning is a nuisance and a health and safety hazard.
He said the many concerns of residents affected highlight the need for the enactment of a controlled burning policy to achieve better balance between health, bush clearing, coal pit and backyard burning. He suggested that a controlled burning policy is needed now more than ever to safeguard this community.
By practicing healthy environmental habits, the need to burn garbage such as household items will be greatly reduced and in some cases, eliminated.
“Clean air is important to living a healthy life,” he added. “Clean air is critical in the current environment, and this is why cigarette smoking in public places has been banned in many countries, including the Virgin Islands. As such, this is one more reason why the department is calling on persons to refrain from backyard burning or burning of any kind.
Additionally, fires can get easily out of control and cause unwanted damage to surrounding properties, flora and environment.
The Fire and Rescue Service is committed to protecting health, life and property from the effects of fire and all other man-made and natural accidents and disasters.