EDITORIAL: Andros fire highlights out islands’ need for resources

WHEN The Tribune spoke to North Andros administrator about a fire that had broken out on the island, we were assured that it was mostly contained.

So it is something of a surprise to learn that the mostly contained fire is sparking warnings on US media outlets about smoke affecting Florida.

Local 10 news weather forecast graphics showed the wind bringing smoke right to Fort Lauderdale, while elsewhere it was highlighted that there was only one fire truck on the island – as The Tribune had reported.

Further inquiries revealed a number of local residents who had to leave their homes, fearing for their health because of the blaze.

One resident said it was out of control, another talked of how the smoky air was affecting her sinuses, several other residents left the area, while some took it upon themselves to organise shifts to watch the blaze to warn people in case it spreads towards buildings.

The fire is reportedly in the middle of the forest, and hard to access, but it is of note that a blaze defined as mostly contained is causing issues all the way over in Florida.

The local MP has stirred in response – Leonardo Lightbourne talking about how forest fires are a legacy issue that has plagued the island for decades.

And National Emergency Management Agency director Captain Stephen Russell set about sending an extra fire truck to North Andros to bring the tally fighting the fire to two. That is due to arrive today.

Thankfully, there have been no injuries, it would seem.

There has been a spate of recent fires – although this is the season for such events.

A recent fire near the airport road had people concerned about the emergency response, while another bush fire has broken out in Crooked Island.

Homes are not in immediate danger in that Crooked Island fire, but as someone noted on a video that circulated of the blaze, “pray for rain”.

There is a broader question of the resources that are devoted to our islands, of course.

As arguments rage over whether Grand Bahama has been properly maintained by the Grand Bahama Port Authority, for example, it might be instructional to look across at islands such as Andros and ask whether the government-provided defence of a single fire truck is adequate.

And as one person asked yesterday, the government has created a Youth Guard in order to help with emergency and disaster situations – should they be helping to tackle such fires? Have they had training for such? What have they been doing so far?

A single fire truck would struggle at the best of times – especially if it needs to stop fighting the fire at any stage and have to go to refill with water, with the blaze flourishing while it replenishes instead of having another vehicle ready to step in.

And perhaps some greater guidance would be useful in this dry period, to advise people on how to avoid actions that might start such fires.

For now, we are thankful that no one has been hurt. That being the case, it is a moment from which we can learn – should worse blazes be still to come.


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