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Jun 9, 2023

Meet 28 Newly Internationally Certified Wild Land Firefighters

Today, a forest fire management training concluded at the Belize Zoo Tropical and Education Center. For the past three days, the National Wildlife Coordinating Group from the United States has been engaging with participants from Belizean organizations.  They are being taught the basics of how to mitigate forest fires that have been affecting Central America, the Caribbean and even the U.S.  These twenty-eight persons, including women, are now internationally certified.  News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

…and with that, these twenty-eight participants are now internationally certified by the National Wildlife Coordinating Group from the U.S. in two critically important fire management areas. The introduction to fire behaviour and introduction to the incident command system certification builds their capacity, but also makes them part of the pool of certified fire fighters worldwide.


Trevor Long

Trevor Long, Wildfire Specialist

“This is just the first step in our vision of building capacity here in Belize. We’re starting out with some basic courses; make this baseline of knowledge between all our firefighters here. And all we are going to do from here is just build off of that and continue building capacity as much as we can here in Belize.”


Forest fire management is of great importance to the country as across the region, including Belize, forest fires have been threatening lives, destroying the environment and structures and even pose a public health hazard. It’s something that the residents of Mahogany Heights have been facing.


Raquel Vega

Raquel Vega, Vice Chair, Mahogany Heights Village Council

“It’s like every day, all through the night. As soon as you get up in the morning. Yo sleep with fire, yo wake up. I have residents calling saying mien, I am tired of smelling smoke. Yo go sleep smoky, yo get up and you are smoky. For the last couple of months, it has really been a challenge for us. This is the first year we’ve seen so many fires in the community, threatening of houses and health. We can’t forget the health aspect of that. We have to make sure that our elders are safe and that they are okay; that loved ones are around to protect them. So for me it is a huge challenge, but working with the guys around the community has really helped us. We got a WhatsApp group, we communicate each day, and as soon as we spot a fire or got a fire in the community, we contact one of these organizations and they will come out and assist us.”


The National Fire Service, as well as the Forest Department, under the Ministry of Sustainable Development has been working tirelessly to address this issue. The training took place at the Belize Zoo Tropical and Education Center and follows a recently held workshop on responding to wildfires.


Jamal Andrewin Bohn

Jamal Andrewin Bohn, Conservation Program Manager, The Belize Zoo

“We are very proudly hosting this training and it came out of a collaboration we had last year with the same trainers from the US Forest Service. At that time we were supported by funding from USAID. We’ve remain in contact, we’ve been building our network and they saw an opportunity to come back to us again, this time with a certified training. So they are giving two of the entry level courses that’s been developed by the National Wildfire Group in the U.S. But the beauty with the certification is that it is internationally recognised and so it is something that they have rolled out in Guatemala, Jamaica and other countries, and so Belize is starting its journey towards putting ourselves in a position where we have a similar curriculum where we can actually certify our wild land fire fighters. Not only are we doing it, we are responding to a need, planning ahead but we are on the same page with our partners internationally so we all speak the same language, so to speak. That comes in handy when you are looking at large-scale crisis because you can actually interchange people. There have been scenarios, our partners have told us, where they have recruited or ask for aid from other country partners that have certified firefighters to go and help them and vice-versa. So we tap into a previously unattainable network of experts that can help in times when we are really dealing with dire 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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