13 December 2021
Over the past few weeks the St Helena Fire & Rescue Service (SHF&RS) has dealt with several wild land fires in the Blue Hill and St Paul’s districts respectively. These fires were located in heavily wooded areas with grass and other shrubs, and if it had not been for the quick response of the SHF&RS, it is inevitable that it would most certainly have caused devastation and destruction to nearby residential properties.
A number of sources can cause wildfires, but humans are by far the largest contributing factor. Natural wildfires typically occur during times of drought, but this scenario accounts for less than 10% of all wildfires. The remaining wildfires are due to some form of human contribution. Below are just some of the ways humans can cause devastating wildfires, along with advice on how to prevent a fire from getting out of control:
Campfires and Bonfires
- Only start a campfire or bonfire in an appropriate fire pit, cleared of all vegetation and ringed by stones
- Never leave a fire unattended, such as overnight
- Always make sure your fire is completely doused with water and smothered with dirt before leaving
- Don’t start a fire on a windy day. Save it for another time.
- Dispose of used matches and butts in a closed container or cup of water
- Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
Yard Waste or Rubbish Burns
- Only burn yard waste or rubbish in a 50 gallon drum or fire pit
- Never leave a fire unattended
- Always make sure your fire is completely doused or smothered with dirt before leaving
- Don’t burn anything highly combustible, including paper or fabric soaked in oil or gasoline
- Don’t start a burn on a windy day. Save it for another time.
- Have a bucket of water, garden hose or fire extinguisher handy. Consider wetting down the surrounding grass and other vegetation before lighting your fireworks
- Never let children use fireworks, sparklers or fire crackers unsupervised
- Don’t light fireworks on windy nights
- Douse used fireworks with water to make sure they are completely extinguished.
Tools and other Combustion Engines
- Don’t place hot machinery on dry grass
- Don’t allow gasoline or motor oil to spill on grass or other vegetation
- Tractors, off-road vehicles and equipment being used in wooded areas, such as chainsaws, must have spark arrestors.
Report wildland/forest fires as soon as possible by calling 999!
It may be of interest that Arson, under section 3 of the Criminal Damage Ordinance, states the following:
Destroying or damaging property
3. (1) It is an offence for a person, without lawful excuse, to destroy or damage any property belonging to another person, intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged. Penalty: Imprisonment for 7 years.
(2) It is an offence for a person, without lawful excuse, to destroy or damage any property, whether belonging to himself or herself or another person— (a) intending to destroy or damage any property or being reckless as to whether any property would be destroyed or damaged; and (b) intending by the destruction or damage to endanger the life of another person or being reckless as to whether the life of another person would be thereby endangered. Penalty: Imprisonment for life.
3A. A person who commits an offence under section 3(1) or (2) by destroying or damaging property by fire commits the offence of arson. Penalty:
(a) if the related offence is under section 3(1) – imprisonment for 7 years;
(b) If the related offence is under section 3(2) – imprisonment for life.
Punishment of offences
6. Notwithstanding section 19 of the Magistrates’ Court Ordinance, 2011, an offence under this Ordinance punishable by imprisonment for more than 7 years is triable only on indictment.
Members of the public are reminded that it is prohibited to light a fire or have naked flames in any forest. Should you have any questions or concerns please contact the St Helena Fire & Rescue Service on tel: 23344.
#StHelena #FireSafety #SHF&RS #AltogetherSafer
13 December 2021