Located at the end of a looping dirt road just outside of the Runaway Bay roundabout in St. Ann, Firewater pond is said to be one of Jamaica's best-kept local secrets. Housed in a makeshift bath area, the pond contains natural gases which create floating flames on top of jacuzzi-like, bubbling waters when lit. The skin, hair, nails, joints, and internal organs are said to benefit from the effect of the sulphur-filled waters. The spring with its fiery potential has been discovered by Granny May, or Mehala Smith, born on March 8, who states that she is 107 years old and the mother of 18 children.
Granny May discovered the ability of the water to flame when, once, trying to burn a wasp nest from the cotton tree, the torch fell into the water and instead of going out, the flames spread. A lot of lore has developed around the water, with locals - soon after it was discovered - engaging in frequent baptismal trips at the site of the bubbling spring, which was now a pool.
Today, the pool area has been concreted and enclosed in bamboo and tarpaulin as a group of young men, including some of the descendants of Granny May, have commandeered it as a source of income and 'for the healing of the people'. A spreading guango tree provides shade while Townie, Rastaman, Police, Goldhog and two other masseurs work their magic at the pool, which accommodates five to six persons at a time. The men heat towels over the flames and apply them to areas where bathers complain of pain, or just provide a general massage. The 'fire massage' is said to help with poor circulation, "Cripple man walk out of it heal," said 35-year-old Henry McLeod who has been a masseur at the sulphur spring for the last 10 years. The waters are let out and replenished after every group leaves.
Since it is off the grid, there is no actual address for Firewater, located in St. Ann's Runaway Bay roundabout, about a half hour from Ocho Rios. Few locals and practically no tourists are aware of Firewater, so it is difficult to locate. If you're willing to take an afternoon adventure, try to convince a driver to help you find it. It will be well worth the trip. There is an extremely narrow dirt road behind the Norman Manley Training grounds. If you can find the mechanic garage behind the main highway past the training grounds, you'll see a lot filled with old fishing boats. If you haven't given up when the road becomes even more narrow as you drive on the edge of a steep cliff overlooking a shallow river, continue down the road until you reach a small shanty town. You'll know when you get there when the friendly rastafarians greet you and guide you to the parking area. They will give you the history of the mysterious healing waters, and if you are willing to climb a small mountain, you may get to meet the healer, "Aunty." You may even be invited to share a vegetarian meal cooked directly over the flames shooting out from the water.
This magical place was kept a secret for years, but is now open to a few visitors each day. Since the shanty town has very little income other than a less than bountiful farm, donations are accepted from visitors. The money helps to buy clothing, school supplies and food for the struggling families in the community. Whether or not you believe in the natural healing abilities of Firewater, a hot towel massage, a clay mud-bath, and a long soak in the spring of flaming fires is a wonderful way to relax and give a prayer of gratitude and praise to The Father. Firewater is the perfect place to end your vacation before returning to the pressures and struggles of life while living in the world.