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KINGSTON, March  9 (JIS): Members of the public are being urged to exercise greater vigilance to prevent bushfires.

Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), Stewart Beckford, who made the appeal, said persons should desist from lighting fires to burn garbage or clear land for planting and ensure that cigarettes are properly extinguished before discarding them.

He said that open flames, particularly given the current dry conditions, can easily get out of control and cause bushfires, endangering life and property.

He noted that the JFB has been seeing a major increase in bushfires since the start of the year that are caused by human activity.

“The profile, especially so far, this year, is particularly troubling. The key feature of any bushfire is that it is an act of nature, such as spontaneous combustion caused by heat and dry conditions, or combustion caused by lightning. What we are seeing, so far in 2023, is an escalation of that pattern where in almost every case the bushfires are being directly caused by people’s actions,” Commissioner Beckford said.

He was addressing a press briefing hosted by Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, at the Ministry in Kingston on Thursday (March 9), to discuss measures to tackle bushfires.

Since the start of 2023, there have been 1,968 such fires across the island. The number is alarming, the Commissioner said, given that for the entire 2022, there were 3,518 bushfires.

Commissioner Beckford said that the continued drought conditions make collection and transportation of water for firefighting more challenging, which has implications for response time and the length of cooling-down operations.

He noted that water intended for domestic purposes is being diverted to fight the fires.

“It is against this background that the JFB is calling for the cooperation of our citizens to preserve their own interests – their houses, their businesses their properties – by stopping the habits that they know can cause fires,” he implored.

Commissioner Beckford says the JFB is working closely with the National Water Commission (NWC) to ensure that water is available for firefighting activities.