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Apr 27, 2020

Forest Department and Partners Battle Wildfires

Bush fires have been popping up all over the country in recent days as the dry weather prevails. A few days ago, laws were put in place to fine persons starting bush fires. Recently, fires spread in the Cayo area, presenting health issues to residents as the thick smoke made it difficult to breathe.  The Vaca Forest Reserve has been hit hard as the blazes sweep through the virgin forests. Over the weekend, a number of agencies joined in the effort with success to contain the fires. Here is News Five’s Hipolito Novelo with a report.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Wildfires are raging across the region. Smoke from fires as far as Nicaragua and Honduras are affecting Belize.  Across the country, fires have been igniting at an alarming rate. As of Sunday April twenty sixth, two hundred and thirty seven fires were detected. The Forest Department has teamed up with the Department of the Environment, the National Fire Service, the Belmopan City Council, business community and residences to fight fires around Belmopan and further west in the Vaca Forest Reserve where the situation is dire.

 

Rafael Manzanero

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, F.C.D.

“So there is a mix of fires in the Vaca. I think the Vaca s dramatic in terms of forest fires. You can see a mix of things there. You can see a lot of smoke. Smoke all around. You can see basically where the forest if burning.”

 

The Forest Department wildland fire crew from the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve Sunday brought a huge forest fire under control. This fire was burning on multiple fronts, emitting so much smoke that it affected Benque Viejo, San Ignacio and Santa Elena. Executive Director for Friends for Conservation and Development Rafael Manzanero says that there is a lot of activities occurring within the Vaca Forest Reserve.

 

Rafael Manzanero

“We know that the Vaca has been one that has been targeted over the years. There has not been any prominent enforcement programme, patrolling system in the Vaca. The Vaca is seventeen kilometers from the Western Border with Guatemala. There is a lot activity that takes place in the Vaca including human trafficking, marijuana plantation, incursions as a result of agriculture farming, cattle ranching and one that you were in. One was able to observe from the air was the forest fire basically burning. That includes areas that were pasture lands, in other words used for cattle. It would also appear to be agriculture fields but because of the dryness of the weather certainly this becomes much larger forest fires, capturing virgin forest and having a wider impact across a larger landscape.”

 

And the landscape is large. Belizeans across the country are complaining of smoky skies affecting their breathing.  The drought is making the situation worse.

In Belmopan two wildfires were successfully brought under control. Wildires also broke out around Bladen Nature Reserve and Saint Herman’s Cave, Springfield. Those fires were successfully managed through the partnership of the Belize Audubon Society, Y’axche Conservation Trust and Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, TIDE.

 

Mario Muschamp

Mario Muschamp, Terrestrial Manager, T.I.D.E.

“We are working on a fire that is here in the village. It is actually a ground fire, what we call a ground fire. So it is actually burning under the ground. That is why we are seeing so much smoke and it is smoking community for the past two days.  So a team from TIDE, the police department, B.D.F. and the fire department are actually out here trying to put this fire out. This is a very tricky fire given the fact that it is in the wetlands. These areas normally don’t burn but because of the drought conditions we are seeing the actually roots and leaves and the rotten stuff that are on the ground have dried out and those are the stuff that are burning. So the fire is burning underground so we have to be taking it out and spraying with water to put it out.”

 

Reporter

“Do you know what caused the fire?”

 

Mario Muschamp

“It has to be somebody. It could start off on its own.”

 

A recently enacted statutory instrument makes it illegal for someone to light fires. One person over the weekend was arrested and charged for doing so. Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.


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