HomeEnvironmentClasses Resume in SP Columbia; Wildfires Threaten Properties Near River  

Classes Resume in SP Columbia; Wildfires Threaten Properties Near River  

Classes Resume in SP Columbia; Wildfires Threaten Properties Near River  

It’s been over a week since brush fires in San Pedro, Columbia have been burning.  While many of them have been extinguished, other fires have started and are consuming large tracts of land, including farmlands, that the Maya community relies on as a means of survival. We’ve heard about the losses suffered by over seventy percent of the farmers in that one village. NEMO has been able to help, but classes were suspended. The fires spread across to other villages as well, a vast area of which lie in the Toledo West constituency. And while Area Representative Oscar Requena and the Minister of Disaster Risk Management, Andre Perez had toured the area when the initial fires had burned out, since then there have been bigger fires burning. At this time, all that is known for sure is that the losses are tremendous, but how much exactly will be realized in the coming days when the final assessments are concluded. News Five’s Marion Ali reports bring you the details in this week’s edition of our Five Point Breakdown.


Marion Ali, Reporting

The National Emergency Management Organization, NEMO, had mobilized its district emergency office last week when it became evident that the farmers were going to lose their crops and that evacuations would be necessary. Since then, preliminary assessments have been conducted and some assistance has been given to the farmers and their families.


A Call for Help

The fires reignited overnight and by this morning, had reached a property at the edge of the Columbia River. Christopher Nesbitt told News Five that he was feverishly fighting a blaze that had put his house in direct jeopardy. Nesbitt turned to Facebook to seek manpower to fight the inferno.




Via phone: Christopher Nesbitt

          Via phone: Christopher Nesbitt

Via phone: Christopher Nesbitt, Property Owner, San Pedro Columbia

“I’m freaking out because I’m watching everything burn and we have people in the bush. We’re getting them out of the bush to get back to the house. It snuck around behind us, so we didn’t have enough men to keep the line long enough to close the line between here and the river. So it came around behind us, so all our work is undone and we have to run back and retreat and try to save the farm. We have some people from San Miguel and some people from San Pedro Columbia right here helping, but this is a big fire and we need more help.”



Aerial Assistance is Now Necessary

Out west in the Mountain Pine Ridge, the fires in that area are being subdued by aerial firefighting efforts, with the assistance of a hired chopper from Astrum Helicopters. But down south, the fires have gotten so unmanageable in the denser areas that Toledo West Area Representative Oscar Requena says this is the level of firefighting that is now needed to fight the blazes that have destroyed huge portions of his constituency.





Via phone: Oscar Requena

               Via phone: Oscar Requena

Via phone: Oscar Requena, Area Representative, Toledo West

“There is urgent need for air support to alter fires, Marion. There is urgent need for air support. A lot of these fires are in long distance and it is inaccessible, so the only way to support our farmers is for air support.”





Classes Resume, but Visibility Still Poor 

And while the fires have drifted further into San Pedro, Columbia, today classes resume after a two-day suspension caused by the poor visibility and air quality. Chairman Basilicas Choco has been fighting the fires since last week and into last night. Choco, also a teacher, returned to the classroom today.




Via phone: Basilicas Choco

             Via phone: Basilicas Choco

Via phone: Basilicas Choco, Chairman, San Pedro Columbia Village, Toledo

They opened it today. I was a bit not happy about it because of the fact that     we’re still out like myself. I was out last night till one o’clock this morning and then have to return back to school this morning. The smoke is still in the air. You can still scent it. It’s not that bad right now, but it’s  you can still smell that air and it’s  foggy.”




NEMO Assistance Will be An Ongoing Operation

NEMO dispatched a team of BDF soldiers and TIDE has joined the effort to help. NEMO Coordinator, Daniel Mendez said the work will continue as they assess new damages.




Daniel Mendez

                         Daniel Mendez

Daniel Mendez, Coordinator, NEMO

“These fires have been affecting a huge part of the Toledo District, so those assessments are being done right now. We have teams on the ground trying to get a better idea of what happened. So we’re preparing an initial situation overview to really understand the scope and the magnitude of last week’s event. We also understand as well that there still remain pockets of fire around the district. We continue to track those and we continue to send out support to the villages that are being affected.”



How Much Was Actually Lost in the Wildfires?


The question remains: how much was lost in the wildfires in the Toledo District? Minister Requena shared a projection.


Via phone: Oscar Requena

“Our government is working diligently to establish a first-time knowledge and understanding of what the situation like is, what the situation is like on the ground, and how the government is going to address it for the long term.”


Marion Ali

“All right, but we can simply say millions and millions of dollars was lost?”


Via phone: Oscar Requena

“Absolutely, I can say with confidence that we have lost millions of dollars.”



The exact figures of the losses will become clearer when all the assessments are concluded on the affected farms – farms that are even burning now as we bring this story to you tonight.


Marion Ali for News Five.

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