Posted: Saturday, May 9, 2020. 6:14 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The sudden onset of rain starting last week was much needed for the west and center of Belize, suffering a smokeout from wildfires near Belmopan and in the extreme west as well as the deep South.
The Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries, the Environment and Sustainable Development announces that all of those fires have been extinguished, mostly by those onset rains. It also cited its contribution with the use of cropdusters converted to airtankers for aerial firefighting.
“In total, 187 water bombing flights were flown over the Cayo District by two aircrafts, and countless hours of on-the-ground fire mopping-up exercises were conducted on live and smouldering fires. With respect to the largest forest fire in the Vaca Forest Reserve, on-the-ground efforts were underway for several consecutive days led by the Forest Department, with financial support from the Protected Areas Conservation Trust. Smaller fires threatening the communities of Arenal and Benque were fought valiantly by community groups, NGOs, and the Fire Department. At the very end, these fires were finally extinguished by torrential rains that poured directly over the area,” the Ministry said in a statement. Three houses were saved as well.
As has been reported, several of these fires were as a result of agricultural work by farmers that eventually escaped into wildfires that burned rapidly through the forest as a result of extremely low relative humidity, high day-time temperatures, and strong winds. The public is reminded to avoid engaging in any fire prone activities as once started, the fires can become uncontrollable as they expand, and will once again become a health threat/hazard to residential areas.
The Ministry thanked its various partners: the Forest Department, the Fire Department, the Town and City Councils; Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT), the Belize Electricity Company Limited (BECOL), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS); Airmax Ltd. of Spanish Lookout and various other community members and local agencies.
The Ministry, via the Forest Department, will continue implementing its fire monitoring plan as the fire season continues while the Department of the Environment is currently formulating more stringent and long-term legislative actions to prevent a re-occurrence of these unprecedented fires.
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