Over $6M spent to extinguish West Berbice mangrove fire

The mangroves on fire at Bath Settlement, West Coast Berbice, Region Five

Over $6 million was spent to put out the fire that had been destroying the mangroves at Bath Settlement, West Coast Berbice (WCB), Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice).

This is according to Regional Chairman Vickchand Ramphal, who told reporters on Friday during a press conference that the fire had been destroying the mangroves protecting the sea defence at Bath Settlement.

Several agencies were involved in the more-than-one-week battle to douse the fire which caused some residents to have to evacuate while others were plagued with health issues as several communities were covered with thick smoke for days.

Regional Vice Chairman Rian Pieters said some residents had to seek medical attention as a result of the heavy smoke.

The fire started on February 24 and was put under control on March 3. The successful battling of the fire took the efforts of the Guyana Fire Service of Region Five, the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s Blairmont Estate, the Public Works Ministry, the Regional Democratic Council, and the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority all working together.

Sub-Officer Denbar Quintin, who is in charge of the fire department in Region Five, said firefighters worked tirelessly and continuously to battle the fire.

He said as of now the conditions are reasonable as they relate to the spread of the fire and the security of persons who live in the vicinity.

“As we would have known over that period of time, within days and nights we had heavy smoke log throughout the area. It even extended to places like Hopetown. We are asking persons to be cognisant of the fact that they need to properly out their cigarettes if they are smoking. We know that at times people do things unconsciously. We are also asking them to desist from lighting any grass…or anything like that. We had some serious issues in the area of Bath,” he explained.

Regional Chairman Ramphal said that more than $6 million was spent to put out the fire. Two excavators and six tractor pumps were used to flood the area with water from inland.

Ramphal took the opportunity at the press conference to call on persons to desist from lighting fires in areas that can cause harm to the mangroves.

“If ever there is fire in an open area and a lot of vegetation let us immediately report that. Call the Guyana Fire Service. If we allow it to escalate, then we could end up with a situation like that which we had in the vicinity of Bath Settlement,” the Regional Chairman added.

Vice Chairman Pieters noted that the fire did not cause significant destruction of the mangroves, which are the natural defence against the sea, but it created various health issues for residents.

“I know that there were quite a few cases where persons had to rush to the hospital to seek medical attention,” he related.

Notwithstanding that, there were several smaller fires that destroyed sections of the mangrove at Hopetown and Number Eight Village.

It is believed that the fires were lit by persons in those communities who were trying to burn garbage they had taken to the foreshore to dispose of.

“We are, therefore, asking persons and if asking is not enough, we are begging for you to be conscious knowing that our mangrove is our sea defence and if we tamper with that, we would just be leaving ourselves open,” the fire officer said.