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May 15, 2009

City dumpsite in flames; smoke causing poor visibility on road

Story PictureA persistent fire at the dumpsite on the Western Highway was extinguished about a month ago after the blaze and smoke billowed for weeks. And just when things were getting back to normal, the fire has sparked off again. And this time, it can last for weeks putting at risk the health of residents in the area. Jose Sanchez was on the highway today and filed this report.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting
Belize City’s dumpsite at Mile two and a half on the Western Highway is on fire once again; less than a month ago the fire was put out. But before sunrise, twenty-five firefighters were dispatched to the site.

Kenneth Mortis, Training Officer, Fire Dept.
“We mobilized a crew sometime around three-thirty more or less. What happened is that the blaze was directly behind the Waste Control building. So we made an attempt to extinguish that blaze and that lasted till about six-thirty this morning. We went to our base and regrouped sometime around nine, nine thirty and this is where we are at right now.”

City Councillor responsible for garbage collection, Phillip Willoughby, thinks that this time the fire was deliberately set.

Philip Willoughby, Councillor Responsible for Garbage Collection
“These outbreaks of fires, this inferno, I’m thinking it’s no accident one. Either the guys who are behind the dumpsite burning for the copper wire or so forth or it was an intentional act done by someone mischievous.”

Jose Sanchez

“Residents complain of the smoke in the area. Are you on top of this situation?”

Phillip Willoughby
“We have met with the city engineer this morning and we have discussed the problem. We are grateful Right now the wind is blowing westerly not easterly. I believe maybe some areas of the Belama might be affected. I need to check or have the Ministry of Health inspectors go see.
go see, if anything.”

The plume of smoke towers and stretches across the dumpsite to the highway, severely limiting the vision of drivers. The councilor braces for a possible escalation.

Phillip Willoughby
“I made a submission to have the police department advise oncoming traffic into the city. And as you can see we have traffic wardens coordinating in directing and regulating the flow of traffic in the city. If in fact the smoke becomes that intense, I will have to discuss this with the fire department and go back to NEMO and say the smoke is pluming too largely. It’s dark, it will be a road hazard for motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and then we consider looking at other options to enter the city from there. That is a worst case scenario.”

Jose Sanchez
“When you say “other options, what do you mean?”

Phillip Willoughby
“The Boom circuit, the Boom road you know. But as a measure of last resort.”

The firefighters, though tired, briefly drink water, and continue to forge ahead despite inhaling toxic fumes.

Kenneth Mortis
“Our biggest concern for our people is the toxic inhalation of this toxic smoke that we are taking in. We don’t have a timeline to say more or less when this mission will be accomplished but we are hoping that whenever this is finalized, that our people can go and get some medical check-up to make sure that their systems are okay. With the assistance of the city council and the excavator, the fire dept. is using our normal fire hose along with our branches and we have a truck at the creek over to my left that is and supplying the scene with water.”

Phillip Willoughby
“The long term solution is the online project that is coming on-stream by the Solid Waste Management Authority to move the dumpsite to mile twenty-four and a transfer station between mile three and four there just as a land fill, a transfer station just till it is transported to the dumpsite at mile twenty-four.”

Jose Sanchez
“It doesn’t seem like this will be finished by the end of the day.”

Kenneth Mortis
“Looking at it from where it is. It is hard to say or to put a time frame on it. It could be two days it could be two weeks but time will have to tell.”

Jose Sanchez
“There may be flare ups.”

Kenneth Mortis
“There definitely will be flare ups.“

Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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