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Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, is expressing grave concern about the very high number of bush-fires being directly caused by human activity across the country.

“This is an extremely serious and worrying matter. We had 1, 303 bush-fires in Jamaica for the month of February this year. This very high number is a 95% increase over the 665 bush-fires that occurred in January. For February, St. Catherine and Kingston and St. Andrew recorded the highest number of bush-fire incidents, at 270 and 180 respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, Portland had 18 bush-fires for the month. In almost every instance, these bush-fires were not caused by the very dry weather conditions, but by people burning garbage and the fires getting out of control, by farmers burning sections of land to prepare for planting, and by persons throwing the butts of cigarettes on the ground after smoking. Just last weekend, there was a huge bush-fire in the hills of St. Andrew that the Jamaica Fire Brigade had to address, with the assistance of Jamaica Defence Force helicopters dipping aerial buckets into the Hermitage Dam to drop thousands of gallons of water on the burning area. This is precious water that could have gone to our households in this time of Meteorological Drought, rather than having to be used to extinguish a preventable fire. The JFB is doing all it can to respond to fires as well as to prevent fires, through the outreach of the Community and Life Safety Programme, but we must as a people take this matter far more seriously.

“I am appealing yet again to our citizens to stop using fire in irresponsible ways. We cannot be casually lighting garbage, especially in these dry and windy conditions. The use of fire to clear land is not an efficient agricultural method. Smokers must extinguish and dispose of the remains of their cigarettes properly. I am asking for much greater levels of personal responsibility, to ensure that all fires are reduced to the absolute minimum.”