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Arson ruled out as cause of dump fire

The cause of the Pembroke dump fire is likely to be 'accidental ignition' the Minister of National Security told the House of Assembly this morning.

More than 80 firefighters tackled the blaze two weeks ago and at the time it was thought that arson may have been the cause. That has now been ruled out.

In his address this morning, the Minister also praised the work of the firefighters, the police and the Regiment.

This is the Minister's full speech:

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Honourable Member who speaks for Public Works will more fully detail the events surrounding the recent fire at the Marsh Folly site, but I can advise Honourable Members that the investigation into the fire has been completed and the results have been provided to me, in summary, by the Chief Fire Officer. Mr. Speaker, deliberate ignition, weather conditions and spontaneous ignition have all been ruled out as causes of the fire. Whilst accidental ignition is the likely cause, there is insufficient evidence to record that as the official cause of the fire. Best practice demands that the official cause of the fire be recorded as “undetermined”.

Mr. Speaker, it would be remiss of me not to recognize the incredible work and professionalism of the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service throughout this event, the Bermuda Police Service who provided vital traffic and crowd control and the Bermuda Regiment.

Mr. Speaker, I happened to be with the Chief Fire Officer at a public meeting in St. George's when the call came that the fire had started and that it was serious. The Service immediately got to work and set about mitigating the blaze and its effects on the site and the surrounding area.

Mr. Speaker, the dramatic pictures that formed part of the media coverage were true snapshots of the event because in record time the firefighters on the scene had controlled the blaze and rendered the site safe.

Mr. Speaker, these efforts and their results were no coincidence or stroke of luck. Having adopted the advice of the Fire Service in the period since the last fire, this blaze was easier to manage and potentially devastating effects significant mitigated. In addition to this aspect of matters, Mr. Speaker, this is an instance where prudent investment in infrastructure, top-level training and state-of the art equipment made all the difference.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to highlight for Honourable Members in particular, the Hytrans Fire System mobile water supply. Mr. Speaker, this piece of equipment has the potential to save lives and make the difference in the fight against serious fires. With taller buildings in the City of Hamilton and a hydrant system that is in desperate need of upgrade, property owners and residents in our main commercial centre can take comfort in the fact that the Fire Service can meet the challenge of a fire in the new buildings that no dot the city's skyline.

Mr. Speaker, the Hytrans system pumps water at a rate of 2100 gallons per minute and comes complete with a mile of hose. Mr. Speaker, this is prudent, validated investment whose use has already demonstrated value for money.

Firefighters worked extremely hard under very adverse conditions and each and every one of them is to be commended for the magnificent job done in bringing this fire under control is so short a period of time.

Mr. Speaker, the Fire Service was ably supported in their efforts by a detachment from the Bermuda Regiment. 50 soldiers provided valuable support and had been pressed into service from the very evening the fire started. They were an integral part of separating waste piles ranging from 150 – 175 ft high using the equipment provided. This, in turn, helped to decrease the amount of burnable material and made it easier to put the fires out.

During the course of the day, the soldiers assisted the Fire Service by carrying out associated tasks, such as moving hoses, clearing debris and general duties to enable the firefighters to concentrate on specialist tasks or take well earned rest. Although soldiers are not trained specifically to deal with large fires, their comprehensive training package enables them to follow orders with discipline, make well evaluated decisions, and act with determination and tenacity.

Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of National Security is immensely proud of all of the uniformed services who played a vital role in safety and security in connection with this event. But for their high standard of training, discipline and commitment, we could be talking today in more tragic terms. Thankfully we are not.

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Published April 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm (Updated April 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm)

Arson ruled out as cause of dump fire

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