Firefighters, Windward Roads collaborate on fighting St. Maarten dump fire

POSTED: 06/3/11 7:08 PM

St. Maarten – Firefighters and Windward Roads staffers spent Wednesday night battling a fire at the Philipsburg landfill on Pond Island. Residents report seeing the dark plumes of smoke from the lighted rubber tires at 8:43 p.m., but Officer on Duty Silvanico Pauletta reported Thursday that they did not receive a call until 9:00 p.m. when a Sheriff Security staffer noticed the blaze.
The central dispatch sent two trucks to the landfill but the officers were not immediately able to begin fighting the fire because they had to move the container that is the landfill’s office and more tires away from the blaze. No one was injured during the firefight and no lives were ever at risk. One man assisted by ensuring that the heavy equipment used at the dumpsite was also moved out of the reach of the fire.
“We were able to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading within an hour. However, the heavy duty machines from Windward Roads were not able to complete the daunting tasks until after 7.00 am,” Pauletta said.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated and fire officers plan to monitor the site for the next few days to see if there are any flare ups.

Health concerns
The St. Maarten Pride Foundation used the occasion of this latest fire to call on government, yet again, to do something about the landfill as these fires pose a public health risk and damage the environment. On the side of public health the foundation is concerned about the spread of fine ash and cancer causing substances, carbon monoxide poisoning, the emission of highly toxic dioxins which affects vital organs and can lead to asthma, skin rashes, liver problems, to impairment of the immune system, nerve damage (particularly with infants), reproductive and developmental problems and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
“The poor management of St. Maarten’s solid waste and by extension thereof the dump which government chooses to refer to as the “sanitary landfill” is a longstanding issue. St. Maarten Pride Foundation reminds government of its duty to safeguard the health and overall wellbeing of the island’s residents and its visitors alike. The landfill fires are a serious health concern and therefore deserve government’s undivided attention,” Pride’s Vice-President Rueben Thompson wrote in a statement.
He added, “St. Maarten Pride Foundation advises the general public to safeguard their health by taking precautionary measures to avoid inhalation and exposure to toxic fumes and particles during landfill fires.”

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