Agencies Handed Fire-Fighting Gear
Over the past years, the Forest Department and its partners have joined efforts in addressing an increasing number of intense wildfires in remote forested areas. To strengthen the works of the teams that tackle these forest fires, five agencies received over a hundred thousand dollars in wildfire gears and equipment. The donation was funded through the Key Biodiversity Areas Programme – who selected the agencies based on the overall key biodiversity areas across the country. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was at today’s handing over ceremony in Belmopan. Here’s her report:
The Forest Department and five of its key partners in Forest Fire Prevention and Management received one hundred seventeen thousand dollars’ worth of firefighting safety gears and equipment. Minister Omar Figueroa says this donation is necessary to combat forest fires and mitigate damage to the forest systems within the Forest Department’s ranges, particularly as the dry season approaches – a time synonymous with forest fires in Belize.
Omar Figueroa, Minister of State, Ministry of Forestry
“Belize has a lot of unique areas and we need to continually be investing in these areas and we need to understand the challenges that these guys face out on the ground. Fire is an extremely important challenge and if managed properly it can also enhance the biodiversity out there. The folks from these five organizations are very capable. They have been trained in fire-fighting, but often times they lack the equipment. So, we are hoping to give them a little more tools so that they can use in fighting these fires out in the Belizean landscape.”
The donation was handed over to the Forest Department’s ranges: Toledo Institute of Development and Education, Ya’axche Conservation Trust, Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative, the Rancho Dolores Environmental and Development Group limited and Programme for Belize. Theseorganizations are on front line when it comes tackling these fires –they say the donation couldn’t have come at a better time.
Edilberto Romero, Executive Director, Programme for Belize
“The experience we had with Hurricane Richard in 2010 and then the fires we had in May 2011 that basically cost more than 18,000 hectares to be affected fires. So, half of our Carbon Cycle Project could not be certified and verified and that is really millions and millions of dollars that we lost there. Last year in August, we had Hurricane Earl and it affected forty five thousand hectares and so that would – in money – that is about thirty two million dollars for everything; commercial size trees that was about eight million dollars. So, we know we are gonna have threats of fires just like in 2011 after Hurricane Richard and so this is really timely.”
The wild land fire-fighting protective gears and equipment like drones, radios, ground tools, protective clothing and GPS systems will be used in the execution of a Fire Incidence Rapid Response Team strategy to better manage forest fires. Not all fires are bad – but those with the potential to destroy broadleaf forests must be prevented or managed because they can result in millions in losses.
“We have some systems out there that are fire dependent; that need fire in order to stay that way. The Pine savannahs are one such system. It needs to burn regularly and so it can handle fire. I mean, pine trees need fire to spread and to reproduce. But then you have other systems like the secondary forest and the landscape that are fire independent. The fire hits these systems and it destroys them and it takes forever to regenerate. So, if we have a fire going into the broadleaf forest, we end up losing all the value that is in there. So, if we don’t manage fires properly, we end up losing a lot – millions and millions of dollars.”
“Now, you mention earlier about the passage of the hurricane and what that has left behind also pose a threat – an opportunity for some of these fires?”
“What happen is that after a hurricane hits Belize, you have a lot of the forests out there destroyed. So, when you have a broadleaf forest – the trees broken down and fall to the ground, after a while this rots and it increases the fuel load out there and all it needs is a little spark to just get out of control and that is what the folks – our partners on the ground – are concerned about. You know, when the fire starts this dry season, it can be potentially worse than it was before this before this fuel load was out there.”
The Key Biodiversity Areas Project will continue to provide forest fire trainings and equipment for better forest fire prevention and management through funding from the Global Environment Facility through the World Bank, PACT and the Government. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.