Derelict and unoccupied houses continue to be a concern for the Barbados Fire Service.
And although fires for the year were on “a downward trend” said senior fire and life safety officer Andrew Taylor who was a guest on last Sunday’s edition of weekly The 311 Radio Show on VOB 92.9 FM, they were adding to the increases in residential fires recorded to date.
The show’s host Jason Collins, who is also a fire and life safety officer, and Taylor, who provided statistics, spoke about the fire and security challenges posed by derelict, or abandoned properties and urged owners to clean up if possible.
“We’re at 910 fires for the year to date compared to 1 097 for the same time last year. What is worrying though is that we’ve seen an increase in residential fires. We’re at 63 for the year so far compared to 57 for the same period last year. But as you would have mentioned a few shows ago, the factor that we have to look at there is the [number] of unoccupied homes.
“The one recently (Tuesday, November 8) in Bank Hall, was an unoccupied house. So, once again, we can see how these unoccupied and derelict homes are really spiking our stats (statistics) in terms of the residential fires. So even though, yes, we’re having residential fires, we don’t want people to be too alarmed, because as I said, if we had to break down the stats even further, you would realise if we had 15 fires over the past few months that the majority of [them] would be either unoccupied or derelict houses,” said Taylor.
He encourages homeowners who for whatever reason cannot live in the houses now to “try to find some way to board up the home” or “secure it in some form or fashion so that you can keep out people who don’t have a right being in the home”.
“…Let’s say the reason you could not move in was because of some financial issue but you still have your home, you still have the land there, and you are thinking that at some point in time things will get better and you can start building again. Look at it, some stranger that you would probably never meet moved into your home, they were doing whatever activities they were doing in the home, and now they’ve basically burned your investment flat,” said Taylor.
Collins chimed in, “All the work you’ve put in previously now basically gone, in Bajan parlance, in shambles.”
Collins also said huge amounts of “grass and … unnecessary debris” around properties could encourage people “to find their way inside and basically make it theirs” but if they were kept clear whether the property owner resided there or it was abandoned, it reduced the chances of someone “infiltrating your property”.
He recommended “keeping the grass or bush as low as possible”, clearing and removing debris and “all the excess stuff that you have around your house that is not relevant” to reduce the creation of “fuel” for fire spread.
Taylor told listeners that while conducting welfare checks in a few City neighbourhoods recently, there were “a few areas of high concern to us” such as an occupied house which “literally had so much debris around it; signs, and doors” which could be a risk for the “three or four homes” close by.
Meantime, Minister of Housing, Lands and Maintenance Dwight Sutherland said during the November 8th sitting of the House of Assembly, the Ministry would be examining how it could incorporate the thousands of unoccupied and vacant lots into its housing plan particularly along the urban corridor.
“…Within the realm of the 15 000 unoccupied houses, derelict houses, most are derelict houses, and vacant lots, … we have services there. We have infrastructure, we have water, we have light. So, it is easier for us to utilize these 35 000 [plots]. I don’t know how much of those we … will really achieve but we are going after the 15 000 unoccupied houses and we’re going after the 20 000 vacant lots,” said Sutherland. (GBM)