A recent spate of forest and bush fires on various areas of Abaco have caused damage to farm areas and blanketed communities in heavy smoke for several weeks.
In recent weeks forest fires have reportedly popped up as far south as the Abaco National Park and as far north as near Blackwood. Aside from ravaging hundreds and possibly thousands of acres and the undergrowth of the forests in these areas, the fires have also wreaked havoc on a number of farm areas and threatened isolated homes.
Firefighters and volunteers have worked tirelessly for weeks protecting homes and trying to prevent the fire’s advance towards settlements.
On Saturday, March 23, seven volunteers with the Marsh Harbour Volunteer Fire and Rescue (MHVFR) back-burned along the road to Snake Cay and along an old farm road south of Spring City preventing a bush fire from further threatening Spring City and later possibly Marsh Harbour. The firemen returned home after midnight.
The following day the MHVFR volunteers were called upon again to protect several homes on farmland as fires burning further south near the Cherokee turn-off threatened homes, destroyed crops and at one point trapped a family at their house.
Both the Fire Chief Danny Sawyer of MHVFR and the local Fire Authority, Sgt. Paul Johnson, urge the public to be aware that March, April and May are considered our fire season. The forest can become very dry and will easily catch fire. They reiterate that it is illegal to start any fire without a permit to do so and encourage hunters and scrap metal collectors – suspected to be the starters of some of the forest fires – to desist such practices. When caught, they will face charges in court.
Residents with homes adjacent to wooded areas are urged to keep their yards clear. Particularly vulnerable are homes where their lots were cleared and the debris pushed to the property edge, leaving a huge pile of dead tree trunks and other debris. Residents should be alert that when there are nearby fires, blowing embers can start additional fires. Flying embers can also get into open roof soffits and other openings, setting buildings on fire. This has happened during our recent fires in several areas.