Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Disasters, Environment, Featured » Wildfires Run Amok in Cayo District
Apr 29, 2020

Wildfires Run Amok in Cayo District

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is facing another crisis; it has to do with bush and forest fires that have been spreading all over the country. In the Cayo District, the situation has become unbearable as the fires and smoke levels threaten the health and property of residents. The fires have been spreading quickly, destroying the forests and harming wildlife. Today, PACT partnered with government agencies to provide aerial water bombing services to bring the fires under control. The first deployment was in Belmopan. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano with a report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The fight to contain a number of wildfires that are consuming the wooded fringes of Belmopan is a concerted effort between the municipal administration, the Forest Department and the Protected Areas Conservation Trust.  This morning, shortly after five o’clock, a team from Airmax Ltd., a local aviation company, gathered at the Hector Silva Airstrip to commence the first of several operations.  Using a pair of water trucks, an air tanker is filled with four hundred gallons of water before taking off to specific areas along the periphery of the Garden City.  On the ground elsewhere, Mayor Khalid Belisle is working with another team to douse a fire that is burning along the Hummingbird Highway.


Khalid Belisle, Belmopan Mayor

“We’ve been plagued by these fires annually, I mean this is nothing new to us, but mixed with the extreme heat that we had been experiencing particularly in last week, it’s really put together a combination of the perfect conditions for these brushfires to really kick into another gear.”


As many as six brushfires in different locations encircling Belmopan have been tackled over the past week.  Today, the Ministry of the Environment got involved with the effort.  Chief Executive Officer Dr. Percival Cho is leading government’s charge.


Percival Cho

Dr. Percival Cho, C.E.O., Ministry of the Environment

“The effort has been ongoing for the past three or four days on the ground, using the support of the Belmopan Fire Service, as well as the Forestry Department and the Belmopan City Council.  But the number of fires are such that it’s difficult to address each one satisfactorily during the day.  When the wind picks up, you’re fighting the wind, the temperature rises, you’re fighting the temperature, the humidity drops and then you’re fighting humidity and then you’re fighting six, seven fires at the same time.  So the need for air support was considered vital, very important and so we arranged for some support to be provided through the Protected Areas Conservation Trust.”


Earlier this month, the country began experiencing large agricultural fires that were intentionally set, causing smoke levels that have resulted in poor air quality conditions for residents in communities on the outskirts of and in Belmopan proper.


Khalid Belisle

Khalid Belisle

“It’s just a general health hazard on a whole and then that’s exacerbated for people who have respiratory problems from the get-go.  So it’s really just a major inconvenience.  It makes life difficult.  You wash your clothes, you pin them out, by the time you pick them in, you know, it’s like you’re bringing in a plate of barbecue into the house.  But I think residents are far more concerned about the health aspect of it.  It’s making for miserable nights.  I’m not on social media but I get all the complaints forwarded to me, of course.”


And those complaints are numerous.  Despite the Forestry Department receiving assurances from farmers within the area, fires are still being lit for slash and burn purposes.  The use of the aircraft today, says Dr. Cho, is to test whether it is effective in quelling the fires to allow for a ground team to go in and extinguish what’s left on the scene.


Dr. Percival Cho

“We were testing it here in Belmopan primarily; one, to control the smoke and to kind of use the steam to zap some energy from the fire and put it out and then allow the ground teams to go in and have a better chance of stamping out all the burning stumps.  They don’t have to fight the fire as such and then just work on the residual stumps that are still smoldering.”


The effort of the Belmopan City Council has been persistent since Saturday, taking on each brushfire in an attempt to reduce the haze that has blanketed the municipality.


Khalid Belisle

“We’ve had a good collaboration with the business community who have loaned us water trucks and the like, in terms of trying to get them extinguished and under control as best we can.  These guys have been putting in long hours, from seven in the morning until seven at night, most days.  At this point, we woke up this morning feeling good about where we are.”


In a bid to preserve the biodiversity, as well as human health, PACT has committed a hundred thousand dollars for aerial water bombing to aid with the national response to the worst wildfires in the country’s history. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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.

Advertise Here

Comments are closed