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May 8, 2020

No Fires Recorded Today!

There’s a bit of good news to report tonight as it relates to the fires that were ravaging the forests and farm lands.   According to the Forest Department, the satellite mapping system didn’t record any fires this morning. This is as a direct result of the downpour the country experienced on Thursday night and this morning. The fires had been steadily increasing since the start of the year. In January, sixty-five fires were recorded, but that number drastically increased to three thousand seven hundred and fifty-eight by April.  You will recall that the government passed a new law to curb the growing fires, but for the first week of May, alone five hundred and fifty-eight fires have already been recorded. Andrea Polanco has more about what the Forest Department is doing in the following story.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

No heat point was recorded across the country of Belize this morning – that’s a first in several weeks. Thanks to the rains that passed over the country between last night and this morning the fires were extinguished.


Raul Chun

Raul Chun, Forest Officer, Belize Forest Department

“As it is right now, with the help of the rains, a check of the online platform shows that we didn’t have any fires or hotspots this morning. So, that is good news.”


But that good news is very likely to be temporary.


Raul Chun

“It goes without saying that we are still not out of the woods yet and the Met Office still has drought warning for Belize and we can’t let our guard down and we have to be careful how people use fires. We have to ask them to respect the law and abide by what the law says, for now there is no burning and if burning is permitted that is done based on fire laws and best practices so we don’t have a repeat of what we recently saw.”


Two weeks ago legislation was passed to prosecute those found lighting fires during the state of emergency, which remains in place. But even with the new law, the burning continued. Forest Officer Raul Chun says offenders will be charged in the coming days.


Raul Chun

“Right at the passing of the law, which was April twenty-first, there wasn’t an immediate reduction in the number of fires.   I am sure in the coming days we shall see those persons being brought before the courts.”


…and the wildfires have destroyed hundreds of acres of forests and farmlands, wiped out crops and other farming investments; resulted in poor air quality with a direct impact on health. So, the forest department and its partners acted quickly to provide a relief for communities suffering from the burning of the fires. One of the strategies they used helped to save a family home in Unitedville last Friday.


Raul Chun

“One of the strategies we employed was the use of planes or crop dusters where we doused areas with fire and during one of the events, where the planes went dousing areas near Unitedville, they came across a house where fires were approaching quickly and their quick action to douse the fire actually saved the building.”


And where the Forest Department and its partners are not able to cover, some communities have stepped up to put out fires. Forest Officer Raul Chun applauds these efforts but recognizes that a long-term, sustainable solution is need.  And they hope to do this through public education campaigns and the activation of community fire management groups.


Raul Chun

“We are basically developing a plan particularly for public awareness and we should have that rolled out soon. There is the need for us and other agencies to start educating our people in terms of the wise use of fires and the consequences of improper use of fires especially for the long terms.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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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