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Premier praises firefighters’ handling of dump fire

Front Pages 10 Mar, 2020 Follow News

(L-R) Paul Walker, Richard Simms, and Pete Lansdown

The fire continues to burn

Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin

Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin praised the firefighters who had managed to get one of the biggest fires in living memory under control in just 24 hours. “I want to start by thanking Chief Walker and Mr. Simms and the entire fire service for the tremendous job they have been doing. I was with them for about five hours last night and this area looked like hell. It has improved incredibly since then. The risks that they take in order to ensure that the rest of us can live comfortably is something that many of us take for granted. It is only in situations like this that we realize how truly valuable they are. They’ve done an incredible job,” he said.

The Premier was joined by Fire Chief Paul Walker was joined by Department of Environmental Health Head, Richard Simms and Detective Superintendent Pete Lansdown of the RCIPS, Monday 9 March to update the public on the progress in dealing with one of the biggest dump fires in living memory.

The fire, which had become a raging inferno on Sunday night because of the strong winds, had been contained and was under control on Monday morning. But the constant plume of black smoke had caused a virtual gridlock of George Town’s main roads, closure of Esterley Tibbetts Highway, and previously led to several hundred residents from the nearby Lakeside condo as well as the Walter’s Road area, to be evacuated.

Mr. Walker said: “I am immensely proud of my colleagues from Cayman Islands Fires Service who have worked tirelessly over the past 24 hours at a challenging fire on our landfill site. Working with colleagues from the Department of Environmental Health, Hazard Management, the National Roads Authority and the Ministry for Home Affairs and Financial Services. We’ve had a real team approach to, in the first 24 hours, stopping this fire spreading from beyond the boundaries of the landfill site which we have done successfully. Of course, I understand the local impact on businesses and residents, and offer an assurance to the residents and the businesses in this vicinity that we will bring this fire under control and extinguish it as soon as we possibly can.

“But this is a challenging fire, and the wind conditions we have got here are fanning smoke, and the fire is spread over three fronts, and we are working on those three fronts to extinguish it. We have put in place a risk-assessed opening of the North Bound Carriageway of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway and that will be in effect from 4pm to 6.30 this evening.

Mr. Simms said: “We are doing our utmost best to ensure that this fire is kept under control and we also want to assure everyone that our normal operations in terms of regular collection of garbage continues, so if there is a little delay in terms of collections, please bear with us but we will do our best to continue operations. I would like to thank the overwhelming support and assistance that’s been poured out to us from the private sector; We ‘ve had people coming and offering their heavy equipment their excavators, front-loaders, as well as their dump trucks.

Mr. Lansdown said: “We were notified of this fire at 4pm on Sunday afternoon and the officers made a very quick assessment and established it was dangerous for any vehicles to go north or south on the carriageway and close both roadways. Soon afterwards, we established that sparks and embers were potentially going to cross the road and could have caused a major hazard to the residents of Lakeside. The smoke was quite thick, and could have caused respiratory problems to the residents and I made the decision to evacuate Lakeside. I am very proud of the response: four or five hundred people left the lakeside area, and they were offered the services of the Red Cross Shelter. I am very proud of Mr. Webster, of Mr. Webster’s busses, who very graciously offered the assistance of his vehicles to assist with moving people out.

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