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Jun 21, 2021

Sleeping Giant or Smoking Giant? Team Discovers Cause of the Mysterious Smoke

For almost two weeks, Belizeans at home and abroad have been speculating that there might be volcanic or geothermal activity in the Maya Mountains, at an area known as the Sleeping Giant where smoke has been seen billowing in the distance.  Well, today we got confirmation that it was nothing mysterious or—as some had begun to believe—supernatural.  But its cause does date all the way back to June eighth. News Five’s Duane Moody has the latest update.


Wilber Sabido, Chief Forest Officer

“We can confirm that the fire was actually started from a lightning strike. If you recall in June eighth or thereabouts, there were a number of thunderstorms throughout the country, but also in the higher elevation areas where the site is located which is about twelve hundred feet above sea level. It seems that the strike basically triggered the debris to actually smoulder.”


Duane Moody, Reporting

Over the weekend, a team of twelve personnel from the Geology and Petroleum Department and the Forest Department joined by residents from the area took the daunting trek to the site, crossing the Sibun River and taking the five hundred feet elevation of the mountain range. Several tests were carried out confirming that there was no volcanic activity.


Wilber Sabido

Wilber Sabido

“The geology and petroleum department did all the tests that it needed to do. One, in terms of testing for hydrogen sulphide, looking for radiation and as well looking at the ground floor for any volcanic activity, looking for any molten rocks or lava as you would call it. And I can confirm that those three came out negative. So there was no radioactive signs, no signs of any molten rocks or lava and no signs for hydrogen sulphide.  What we did find was that the area was burning. It was smouldering. The debris, the organic matter was about two feet thick in some areas and the evidence that we saw was consistent with a lightning strike. We noticed that the organic matter continues to smoulder, we also noticed some flames on the periphery of the area. We also got reports yesterday evening that the people that live in the surrounding area did see some signs of fire in the perimeter of the area that was smoking. This is consistent with a fire, of course, and we fear that it might be starting to spread more given the weather conditions.”


There is concern about the destruction to the forest ecosystem because the fire is spreading uphill. Outside of the smouldering detritus, fire could be seen at some points of the one acre plot that is affected. Chief Forest Officer Wilber Sabido says that for now they will allow nature to take its course during the next few days. If the situation worsens, however, other steps will be taken.


Wilber Sabido

“As you mentioned correctly Duane, the fragility of the ecosystem is important to us given that this is a forest ecosystem at the upper elevation. If left unattended the fire will burn everything in its path and when the rain comes, we may have some erosion taking place and we did witness erosion taking place in some areas that had already been burnt because of the rain that had passed through over the last week and a half. So as we move forward, we need to continue monitoring the situation. Secondly, if we see that the fire intensifies in terms of higher flames and the rate of spread because we already know definitively what is the area that we measured when we last went up there, then we will need to go into plan “A” which is going out there and trying to put out the fire mechanically with our own manpower. Or secondly if that is something that is too high risk, then we will need to consider the other option which is the use of helicopters to douse the area that is burning with water.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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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