Fire Service warns of looming devastating bushfires in Ghana

Ghana risks a repetition of the devastating bushfires of 1983 this year, unless collective action is taken to offset that threat, the Rural Fire Division of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) has warned.

The Deputy Chief Fire Officer in charge of Rural Fires, Mr Edwin Ekow Blankson gave the warning at a Press briefing in Ho as he began a tour of some communities in the Volta Region notorious for bushfires, as part of a nationwide tour.

He would be at Adaklu-Waya, Kpetoe and Anyirwase in the Adaklu, Kpetoe-Ziope and Ho-West Districts respectively, where he would meet chiefs and opinion leaders to drum home the message and brainstorm on how to deal with the risk.

Bushfire data provided by the Volta Regional Directorate of the Ghana National Fire Service indicated that by mid- January 2016 the Region had recorded 24 bushfires compared with 15 of such fires for the whole of the same month in 2014 and eight in 2015.

The total number of bushfires recorded in the Region in 2014 and 2015 stood at 33 each, nine more than the 24 recorded by mid- January this year alone.

Hunters of game and to some extent cattle herdsmen seeking to develop green grazing fields are noted for the menace.

Some cigarette smokers and palm-wine tappers also start bushfires inadvertently.

The Meteorological Agency told the Ghana News Agency that, “the atmospheric heat being experienced in the country will continue and reach its peak in March.”

The onset of this year’s rainy season would be in April by the earliest, the Meteorological Agency predicted.

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Mr Ekow Blankson said the GNFS had applied several strategies including public education to make people quit the habit of indiscriminate bush burning, but the habit won’t just go away.

He said bush burning must be controlled and supervised by bushfire volunteers in the communities.

Mr Blankson said unlike the advanced countries, Ghana could not afford helicopters to combat bushfires from the air, hence the need for every citizen to show commitment to dealing with the menace.

The Bushfire Law 229 of 1990, which prescribed a sanction of 2.00 Cedis must be reviewed to make the punishment a real deterrent.

He also called on chiefs and other opinion leaders to refrain from begging for the release of culprits arrested for bushfire offences.

Mr Blankson also appealed to the media, especially radio stations, to devote part of their airtime to educate the public on the dangers of bushfires.

District Assemblies should also pass anti-bushfires by-laws and provide one percent of their internally generated revenue as provided by law to support the enforcement of those laws and assist anti-bushfire volunteers, he stated.

The year 1983 referred to earlier by the Deputy Chief Fire Officer was a time in Ghana’s history when nearly  every blade of grass, shrubs, trees, barns of food stuffs, seeds and farms, including game and even in some cases whole communities and human beings, was reduced to ashes by an inferno.

It was a period when the eye could see a sea of grey wasteland over a long distance, as streams were reduced to long threads of gullies and game sought refuge in human habitations in search of food, water and protection.

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The cost in monetary terms was incalculable.