Tuesday 22 October, 2019

Fines for illegal fires to increase to $20,000

Persons who are caught setting outdoor fires without the relevant permit could be fined up to $20,000 from January 2019.

In a social media post on Monday, Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, Clarence Rambharat warned would-be fire starters that the penalty would be much greater come 2019.

"As we approach the dry season, fire starters should also take note that from January 1, 2019, the fine for starting a fire without a permit moves from $1500 to $20,000."

Rambharat said the fines for this and others such as hunting of protected animals would be reviewed and maybe even increased in 2019.

"These fines will be reviewed in 2019 and further increases could be made...be warned!"

The Finance Bill, which was passed in Parliament on Wednesday, seeks to amend the Agricultural Fires Act, raising the penalty fine for starting outdoor fires without a permit from $1,500 to $20,000. 

Previously, under Section 33 of the Act, anyone found guilty of the offence was subject to a fine of $1,500 and six months jail time, as well as paying for the expenses incurred from putting out the fire. 

During the Forest Fire Season, which starts December 1 to until June 30 of each year, a permit is required to light outdoor fires. Permits can be obtained from the nearest fire station.

The following guidelines should be adhered to if a Permit is granted:

- Burn only during the period specified on the Permit.

- Avoid leaving cut trees bushes or brush lying around. (Discard safely to reduce fire risk.)

- Have water readily available to extinguish a fire.

- Don’t burn during periods of high wind or hot dry periods.

- Have extra help available to assist in controlling fire.

- Clear fire trace around the area to be burned.

- Burn small amounts at a time.

To report a forest fire in Trinidad and Tobago, citizens can call:

- Fire Services at 990 

- Forestry Division at 225-3865/3846/3756/3802 /643-9595

- ODPM at 640-1285/640-8905

In 2016, forest ranger Keith Campbell died after fighting with others to put out a bushfire which was started illegally on Lady Chancellor Hill.

Campbell sought to put out the fire along with other rangers when a change in wind direction caused him to be trapped by the flames. He sustained third-degree burns and succumbed to his injuries on March 25, 2016 (Good Friday).

Campbell was posthumously awarded the Hummingbird Medal for his gallantry and courage. 

 

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