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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, May 27, 2024
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Bovoni Landfill Fire Extinguished

Daryl George, director of VI Fire and Emergency Medical Services, talks about the Bovoni fire that burned for three weeks. (Facebook live stream screenshot)

V.I. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Director Daryl George reported Friday the fire at Bovoni landfill, burning for the last 21 days, has been extinguished as of Wednesday.

“After 21 days of operation,  I can report to you today that the fire has been completely extinguished,” the director said, thanking the agencies and personnel as well as the fire chiefs.

George said when the fire was reported, the vegetation was “fully engulfed in fire.”

During a multi-agency press briefing Friday, Daryl Jaschen, director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, said the territory remains under a state of emergency because there are a number of post-recovery activities to be completed by Fire and EMS and the Waste Management Authority.

After the governor declared a state of emergency, a united command formed with 16 agencies met twice daily. They received reports from Daryl George and outlined plans for the next day.

During the last three weeks, firefighters and emergency medical personnel from St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix rotated in and out of the field.

Additionally, for two days, the Puerto Rico National Guard dropped thousands of gallons of water from a “Bambi” bucket and a helicopter on areas that were not accessible from land.

The Virgin Islands will owe Puerto Rico roughly $130,000 for their help, Jaschen said. Since it was a local emergency declaration, the territory will pay all the costs.

The landfill area is such that there was no room for pumper trucks, additional manpower or more vehicles. Luckily, the VIPD provided thermal images from drones over the inaccessible areas.

Jaschen explained that the landfill normally contains piles of metal, cars, trucks, storage for used oil and other trash from haulers, small businesses and the private sector. The section for green waste contained 55,000 cubic yards of dried vegetation left behind by Hurricane Irma.

The only location on fire was the area with green waste and there was no threat to other areas, the director said.

To provide emergency medical help needed, the Health Department placed a mobile van on site. Staff also collected qualitative data from surrounding neighborhoods.

Nicole Craigwell Syms, assistant Health commissioner, said the information will be compiled into a report and released to the public. Residents who still want to respond will find a copy of the survey at several business locations. Surveys will be accepted until Oct. 8.

Last week, the V.I. National Guard conducted air monitoring twice and there were “no detected elevated readings of contaminants” from the three sites – Bolongo Bay Hotel, Antilles School and the dumpsite itself.

More than 1.85 million gallons of water were used to douse the fire, with 30 percent from fire hydrants and the rest of the water from private sources. During the firefighting, over 1,900 cubic yards of green waste were moved and in the future, 30,000 cubic yards of fill be spread over it to prevent future fires. That process will take a month, Jaschen said.

In case of flareup, there are personnel on the site to call 911 and additional equipment is also on site. Additionally, a fire hydrant will be extended.

Normal landfill operations have resumed, but WMA is not accepting green waste until further notice when an acceptable area is identified. Jaschen said WMA plans to use a $6 million grant from the EPA to develop a standard operating procedure to handle green waste in the future.

Bertha Boschulte School was closed after the fire was reported and will remain closed, with classes conducted virtually. The school plans to reopen Tuesday to allow time for necessary cleanup.

Jaschen also talked about tropical weather. He said the final bands of T.S. Philippe have moved North of the territory. A moderate rip current will affect the water and a heat alert remains in effect.





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