Acting Station officer, Wayne Vaughan, demonstrating the use of the commercial blower to extinguish a grass fire under controlled burning. (Barbados Fire Service)

The Barbados Fire Service (BFS) has developed new and innovative ways to fight fires with reduced water usage, or without the scarce commodity.

Those innovations involve the use of a commercial blower, a 20-year-old water tender that was retrofitted and outfitted with a commercial pump and a commercial tender from Angloco in extinguishing grass, rubbish, tyre and car fires.

Chief Fire Officer, Errol Maynard, said firemen were constantly challenged with fighting grass fires during the drought, and responded to a challenge which he issued to develop innovative water saving ways to continue doing so.

“Over the last two to three months, when the country was shut down there was a significant increase in rubbish and grass fires, which burned for a wide area,” he said.

During the period March 22 to May 19, the BFS responded to 688 fires, compared with 464 for the same period in 2019, representing an increase of 48.2 per cent.

Grass fires during the lockdown period also significantly increased, moving from 290 to 438.  Rubbish fires also showed an increase, from 88 in 2019, to 164 for the corresponding period this year, representing an increase of 86.3 per cent.

Mr. Maynard explained that under normal circumstances such large fires would require the use of a lot of water.  The units and their various branches enabled fire men to use just one tank of water to fight two or three fires.

He made these disclosures during an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service during a controlled burning of a pasture at Golden Grove, St. Philip, to test the effectiveness of the equipment with water conservation, yesterday.

To test the effectiveness of the commercial blower, a controlled burning was carried out at a pasture in Golden Grove, St. Philip yesterday. (Barbados Fire Service)

The Fire Chief said: “The water tender was in service for 20 years, and it has a commercial pump that was defective, so the officers in the Maintenance Unit fitted it with an independent pump; retrofitted it; and reconstructed the vehicle and came up with a water saving device that can fight fires.  It carries approximately 90 gallons of water.”

Meanwhile, he noted that the commercial tender from Angloco carried between 80 and 90 gallons of water, and could also fight similar fires.

Acting Station Officer with the BFS, Wayne Vaughan, explained that after research was conducted it was discovered that the commercial high-powered leaf blower could also be used to fight rubbish, car, tyre and grass fires.

“It takes technique and time.  I would not advise the average person to take a leaf blower to put out a fire because it must be done in a controlled environment by persons who know what they are doing,” he said.

Acting Station Officer attached to the Barbados Fire Academy, Marlon Small, also noted that the equipment was geared towards reducing the amount of water used by firemen to extinguish fires.

However, while they can boast of innovative equipment designed to save water, the firemen said the retrofitting was not costed.

“It would have cost thousands of dollars at a commercial workshop, but the officers did it as part of their normal duties.  To put the costing, labour work, technology, engineering, it would have cost us thousands of dollars,” the Fire Chief admitted.

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