© Dave Mathieson - Amherst Daily News
Residents of River Hebert and Joggins gathered at the River Hebert Fire Hall on Thursday to discuss ways to bring and end to the large amount of fires they’ve had to combat this spring. Firefighters, the RCMP and the DNR spoke about the problem before residents asked questions.
AMHERST – The person, or persons, igniting grass fires in River Hebert and Joggins is running volunteer firefighters ragged, and is also scaring the people who live in those community’s.
“Last year they were close to getting my house,” said one of about 50 area residents who came out to the River Hebert Fire Hall Thursday night to discuss ways to stamp out arson in their community.
She said that during the fire season she goes to bed every night fearing for her life.
“For three months I make sure the animals are fed, the doors are locked, the lights are out, and I look out every window to see if there’s any orange on the horizon and I check my smoke detector,” she said. “That’s a hell of a way to live.”
She voiced her concerns to the members of the RCMP, the Department of Natural Resources, and volunteer firefighters who were on hand to discuss the fire problem.
Firefighters in River Hebert and Joggins have battled disproportionate amount of grass fires every spring for the last three or four years, and this year they have fought close to 100 grass fires since April 1.
The cost of fighting fires for the month of April was $1,656, but the cost members of the volunteer fire department in the time spent away from their families is much greater.
“My guys are tired and on edge,” said George Rector, chief of the River Hebert Fire Department. “We have to find out who’s doing it.”
Rector pointed out the fact that three quarters of his department is made up of older firefighters.
“I’m scared one of them could take a heart attack,” he said.
Another resident raised the concern that they might have a pyromaniac on their hands.
Allan Carroll, Sgt. Of the RCMP Cumberland Detachment was at the meeting.
He said they have very few leads in their investigation.
“Is it kids? We don’t know. Is there one, is there 10, is there different people? We don’t know,” said Carroll. “But we need people to realize the potential danger to your community.”
Then he had a direct message for the arsonist or arsonists.
“If you have any civic pride, don’t tire your firefighters out because you’re going to need them,” he said. “If they’re out fighting a fire, well guess what, someone who needs first aid immediately is not going to get it.
“You might think it’s cute, it’s fun, it’s a joke, well it isn’t. If you’re sick enough to do it, then we have to try to find you.”
It was made clear during the meeting that both the RCMP and the Department of Natural Resources do not have the manpower to be everywhere at once, and that they need help from the community.
They are encouraged to call the RCMP if they see somebody starting a fire, so they can respond immediately. Residents are also encouraged people to bring names bring names forward, so they can run the name through their database or go talk to the person.
The RCMP made it clear that anybody wishing to speak under conditions of anonymity will remain anonymous. They can contact the RCMP at 1-800-222-8477 or Call the RCMP Cumberland Detachment at 667-3859.
They can also contact the Department of Natural Resources in Oxford at 447-2115.