Persistent dry weather creating fire hazard St. Croix has had about 20 brush fires
Published: March 21, 2013
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A drier than usual dry season has sparked brush fires and poses a threat to livestock that may suffer from malnutrition as a result of withering pasture grass.
A high pressure system has suppressed rainfall. Light rain is expected this week, but dry conditions likely will persist through April, according to Oldalys Martinez, a metereologist with the National Weather Service.
The territory ordinarily receives between 1.5 and 3.5 inches of rainfall each month from December to April. This year, totals have been between half an inch and 2 inches on St. Thomas and St. Croix, according to Martinez.
Since December, St. Thomas accumulated an average of 1.45 inches per month, and St. Croix accumulated an average of 1.28 inches per month, according to the National Weather Service.
Firefighters have put out about 20 brush fires on St. Croix since the start of the dry season. Some of the fires appeared "very, very suspicious" and may have been deliberately set, according to V. I. Fire Service Assistant Director Darryl George.
No one has been injured, and the fires have caused only minimal property damage, according to the Fire Service, which banned burning on all three islands effective Feb. 27. The ban includes the burning of trash, bonfires and fires used to clear land. No permits will be issued until conditions improve, according to George.
Violating the ban could result in a fine of up to $500 or one year in prison, he said.
"It's very bad. This season it's been worse than in years before," George said. "We are asking people to make sure that the brush is cut back from their homes, and if you are barbecuing to make sure that the coals are contained and never left unattended."
George also warned people not to dispose of cigarette butts in or near dry brush.
On March 7, V.I. Agriculture Commissioner Louis Petersen Jr. issued a press release warning farmers that "livestock and horses are at risk for disease and malnutrition because the pasture grasses have dried up and are no longer nutritious."
The dry grass lacks adequate protein and is causing animals to overgraze, further damaging pastures, according to Petersen. Inadequate nutrition will predispose animals to disease, worms and ticks and make some animals unable to produce milk for their young, according to the press release.
Farmers should supplement their livestock's grass diet with salt, molasses or corn or provide high-quality feed, Bethany Bradford, director of veterinary services for the Agriculture Department said in the prepared statement.
- Contact Amanda Norris at 714-9104 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.