Dry and hot weather during the month of April and early May was noted as the possible catalyst for bush fire incidences recorded during the same time, as the region’s dry season, which generally runs from about February to June drew to a close. Bush fires in areas just north of James’ Cistern, along Queen’s Highway, as well as in the Ocean View neighbourhood, just north of Governor’s Harbour, damaged swathes of coppice forest, burned out utility poles, as well as several building structures, and kept local volunteer fire services busy, having to visit sites multiple times, battling simmering embers.
On Monday, May 10th, 2021, during the early afternoon, as volunteer fire fighters battled flames which had overtaken two unoccupied buildings in the Ocean View area, north of Governor’s Harbour, neighbours stood nearby, concerned about the second incident of apparent bush fire in their neighbourhood within a three-week period.
Sherrie Miethe, originally from Germany and now living in Eleuthera, with a home at Ocean View, was among the group of residents watching the fire fighters work, across the street from the latest fire. She had experienced the fright of bush fire coming scarily close to her residence, several homes down the road from this one, just three weeks earlier. “I had seen plumes of smoke some distance away in the bush. We had all seen the smoke, and I monitored it for days. We tried to see if we could get into the bush to get close enough, but we couldn’t get in there, because it was just too thick. It was slow burning, and all we’d see was a little plume.
“I watched from here, and you would see it kind of snaking through the forest leaving a brown path, and it got down close to my property line. We then thought that it was pretty much out, but we couldn’t see very well. So, it was an early Saturday morning, at about 4am, when I looked out of my window and saw embers flying through the air. The house next door to mine, which was an abandoned residence, had caught fire, and it went up like crazy, and kept jumping.”
“It was a neighbourhood effort. Thank God for the Fire Brigade – I love these guys. They came that morning and the next day, multiple times – because it kept flaring up again… They got on the roofs and they kept my roof wet. Police had to assist with taking my husband, who has dementia, out of the house during that early hour of the morning. The fires are a problem here – they happen a lot. We haven’t had any substantial rain here in many weeks, but I don’t know the cause,” shared Sherrie.
The following day, on Tuesday, May 11th, 2021, volunteer firemen were on the job again, tackling a bush fire that raged along Queen’s Highway, just north of James Cistern, burning through forest, as well as a utility pole – damaging it beyond continued use. This resulted in a more than four-hour power outage in the Central Eleuthera area on Wednesday morning, May 12th, as Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) crews worked to replace the destroyed utility pole. Fire crews were also seen as BPL personnel worked on Wednesday, making sure there were no remaining embers.
According to Kenwood Culmer with One Eleuthera Emergency Services, bush fires have been prevalent in South Eleuthera during this dry season as well, with some notable areas being; significant coppice forest burns along the Queen’s Highway, just north of Tarpum Bay, as well as areas between Rock Sound and Green Castle. During the latter part of May, he also described bush fires having to be tackled in the commonage property area of Tarpum Bay.
North Eleuthera, said one volunteer fireman in that area, was not left out during the past several months, with fires battled in several areas including along the approach road into Lower Bogue, as well as areas along the road leading into The Bluff township from Queen’s Highway.
Two days of heavy rain showers, across the island, began to fall on Thursday morning, May 13th. This and other May showers were a welcome relief for concerned residents, as well as volunteer fire crews, who had been kept on their toes.