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Jan 24, 2023

Building Fire Management Capacity for the Maya Forest Corridor

Every year, Belize loses thousands of acres of forests to wildfires, threatening human livelihoods and property – they destroy forests and endanger wildlife. And so, wildfire management training for the Maya Forest Corridor, which encompasses the Belize Zoo, the Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, as well as surrounding villages, has been taking place over the past week. The goal is to build the capacity of fire management in this area.


Duane Moody, Reporting

It’s been three years in the making, but a group of N.G.O.s has embarked on a fire management capacity building program in the Maya Forest Corridor, which encompasses several villages, private lands and various landscapes that are prone to wildfires.


Jamal Andrewin Bohn

Jamal Andrewin Bohn, Conservation Program Manager, Belize Zoo

“During the pandemic, we noted an uptick in the number of fires and by extension, not only the threats that they have to wildlife and ecosystems, but to public health – so respiration, immune systems, your heart health basically as well as life, properties assets, everything. Different levels of trainings. We’ve had several basic trainings with community members, community health workers, chairpersons, everyone that has an interest in fire and an interest and commitment to defending their communities from wildfires.”


With financial support from the U.S. Embassy for training, as well as the acquisition of fire-fighting tools, a fire working group has been created for the area. Conservation Program Manager at the Belize Zoo Jamal Andrewin Bohn says that they were inspired by TIDE and the Southern Fire Working Group.


Jamal Andrewin Bohn

“They know it like the back of their hand. What spoke to us most as well was during the pandemic again, who came to save Belmopan – the Southern Fire Working Group, because of the absence of capacity in this area. So we have been working towards not only training of the N.G.O.s but the communities that have to deal with fires as a reality every single dry season. We also recognise that a lot of people in agriculture use fire as a tool for agriculture practices. So it is a matter of getting the right information to burn safely, effectively without risk to your neighbours and your assets, to improve smoke management and reduce fire risk.”


Today’s advance training involved staff from the N.G.O.s that usually provides boots on the ground when dealing with fires on their properties and communities. Recently, a teenager down south received burns to seventy-five percent of his body while burning garbage. This scenario, as well as other control techniques, is among the information being shared with the participants.


Mario Muschamp

Mario Muschamp, Terrestrial Manager, TIDE

“You need to understand fire behaviour and the factors that influence how that fire behaves. That’s your weather parameters, which includes wind, temperature, relative humidity and the fuel, the stuff that will burn and what condition those are in. So those are things that you need to know. The fire behaviour will then tell you whether you will be able to control that and manage it. In terms of the safety zones and all of those things is to ensure that the guys who will be implementing and dealing with fire has a safe spot that they can get back to in case things go wrong. As fire-fighters, your first job or first priority is the safety of life and property – not just your life, but the life of everything around that area that you are working with fires.”


Participants are learning about approved plans for prescribed burning as a strategy for preventative wildfire and proper fire management.


Ernesto Velasquez

Ernesto Velasquez, Head Ranger, Belize Maya Forest Trust

“Learning how to be a leader in fire-fighting and know what to look for, realising the hazards when it comes to safety and saving the lives and property of our own.”


Jimmy Zometa

Jimmy Zometa, Conservation Ranger, Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

“We are building capacities and learning how to use fire to protect us against fire. That’s why we are here and this is like a second level training for us because we’ve done a basic fire management course and this is a secondary course that will help us become more into it and help come up with the plans of how we are going to be managing these fires.”


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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