THE Brong Ahafo Regional Fire Officer, Mr Paul Opoku, has called for the review of PNDC Law 299, (1990) on bush fires, since the law has outlived its usefulness.
He stated that the anti-bush fire law was outmoded, weak and did not prescribe enough stringent sanctions to deter people from causing bush fires in the country.
Mr Opoku stated that the law on bush fires, which was promulgated 20 years ago, was not consistent with the present times and had also weakened the resolve of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) to fight bush fires in the country, especially during the dry seasons.
Mr Opoku, who is also a Divisional Officer Grade 1 of the GNFS, made the call in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Sunyani following the ban on hunting and other bush fire-related activities in the Brong Ahafo Region from November, 2010 to March, 2011.
He said in recent times bush fires caused by hunters in search of game during the prohibition period had caused destruction to both food and cash crop plantations running into thousands of Ghana cedis in the region.
The Regional Fire Officer said because the law on bush fire was weak and outmoded, the “economic saboteurs” had been made to go scot free by the law courts after they had been arrested and arraigned.
Mr Opoku stated that the state of affairs in the region had not only weakened the resolve of the GNFS to fight the rampant bush fires in the region, but had also made the investment of people into farming to go waste.
“If offenders of such crimes are not brought to book to assuage the pains of victims, it will serve as a disincentive or de-motivation for those who are desirous to venture into commercial farming, more especially at a time that the government is encouraging the youth to embrace farming as a commercial venture,” he stressed.
Mr Opoku gave statistics on the bush fire situation in the region from 2009 to 2010 to buttress his point.
He said bush fires destroyed 224 farmlands cultivated with food and cash crops, as well as livestock in the region worth GH¢390,491, and also resulted in one death and four injuries.
He said out of the 224 bush fire cases recorded in 2009 and 2010, 59 were reported while 165 were not reported, adding that Techiman and Wenchi Municipalities recorded the highest cases of 105 and 60, respectively in the region.
The Regional Fire Officer said his outfit in collaboration with the Regional Co-ordinating Council (RCC) and the Regional Secretariat of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) had set up an anti-bush fire task force, which included the military, the police, the GNFS and NADMO to cause the arrest of people who would set fire during the ban period.
Mr Opoku said the command had re-trained the 7,000 fire volunteers in the region while plans were under way to recruit more volunteers across the region to help combat the bush fire menace in the area.
He stated that the command had also intensified its anti-bush fire educational campaigns in the region as part of the broader strategy to deal with the menace, which is rampant between January and March.
Mr Opoku appealed to residents in the region to co-operate with the GNFS to help combat bush fires during the prohibition period, since it was a shared responsibility