Mar 28, 2013 Editorial
Tuesday was perhaps one of the most dramatic days in the history of Guyana. There were four fires and it is not that Guyana never had four fires in one day. During the tension years of the 1960 and again in the post-election period of 1997 there were more than four fires in a given day.
In the 1960s, the fires were all over and many people lost their property because those properties happened to be a neighbourhood populated by people who were ethnically different. All these fires were deliberately set and the cost, to both the homeowners and to the country, was horrendous.
In the wake of the 1997 elections the city was on fire. It all started in a furniture store and spread to some of the major businesses in the city. There is a report that the first fire was deliberately set and it spread with devastating consequences. The Guyana Fire Service was hard put to fight them given its inadequacies.
Since then there have been improvements; the fire service has better equipment although other requisites have not been installed. There is still a paucity of fire hydrants in the city, perhaps the only city in the world with defunct fire hydrants.
And so we must take a look at Tuesday. There were four fires across the country. There was one in Kwakwani, two at schools in East and West Demerara and a fourth in the city. There is no report of how the fires started but it is unlikely that an arsonist or arsonists are in our midst. It must be a case of extremely carelessness.
Guyana, despite the numerous concrete constructions that are fast going up, is still a wooden country. Therefore the likelihood of fires is ever present and there must be a concentrated programme of education.
Guyana Power and Light keeps reminding people that electrical connections are made to support a given limit of equipment but people ignore that warning simply because they are lured by the number of outlets that a particular strip may have. The result is that points may overheat and start fires. This has happened in many cases.
Then there are the instances of electricity theft. For reasons best known to everyone, people contend that they cannot pay the electricity rates. This may be due to the fact that people are under pressure to match the material needs of their neighbours. Something has to give because more often than not, money is not at a premium.
Of interest is that the people who steal electricity use conductors that are not made to support the power that people pass through them. The result is that these overheat and also cause fires. Some have claimed lives but these statistics have not stopped electricity theft.
Another source of fires is the most common human factor. Guyana is dry at the moment. There has not been much rain so the place is dry. Because the city council cannot collect garbage in a timely manner people are forced to burn their rubbish. The dry conditions and the wind aid in the spread of those fires.
We have also had the alcohol induced fires. People have been known to go to bed with a lighted cigarette and pass out. Numerous buildings have gone up in flames in that manner. Arson has not been a significant factor but that too has contributed to some of the recent fires.
Guyana must seek a solution in the same way it must seek a solution to the rash of road accidents. People must first be made to realize that the replacement cost of such carelessness is astronomical. For some people who are tenants while they may not have to replace their homes they will certainly have to replace their personal belongings. And as we have said, money is not at a premium.
One of the limiting factors is that people are loathe to criticize their neighbours for their dangerous habits. They say that they fear the ensuing abuse. That will ensure the continuance of careless fires.
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