Forest fires plaguing communities are man made says Deputy Chief Forest Officer
A nationwide uptick in forest fires is posing a threat to numerous communities and residents. Forest fires are a natural phenomenon during Belize’s dry season, but extremely dry weather is fueling the uptick. The fires, according to experts, are the woodland’s way of cleansing itself. However, Deputy Chief Forest Officer, John Pinelo Jr, says several of the recent fires were man-made. Pinelo explained that reckless human behavior is a driving factor, despite the efforts of the forestry department to educate citizens on the dangers of wildfires.
John Pinelo Jr, Deputy Chief Forest Officer, Department of Forestry: “Unfortunately most of it is negligence and human created fires. We have responded to three fires over the last week that are serious fires burning in the Yalbac area, burning in the Vaca forest reserve and burning outside the Mountain Pine Ridge but affecting the Mountain Pine Ridge. Apparently they were all lit by humans either burning their farms or burning garbage and leaving it unattended and then the Forest Department along with the protected areas managers and the real estate owners who have houses in those areas had to respond to these fires. So this is the situation where we keep seeing it every year that you don’t burn during the hottest part of the day, you don’t burn when it is windy. You make sure you have a fire line so that your fire doesn’t jump out of your property and go into somebody else’s property and you definitely don’t light a fire and leave it unattended. But it seems that this is the situation going on all over the country and it unfortunate because we’re losing a lot of our good ecosystem. The fire is affecting many of our protected areas, the ones that we boast about internationally and it is something that is difficult to deal with because when you have a huge forest fire no matter what kind of equipment you have it is difficult for you to fight that fire when you have already 96 degree temperature, the air is extremely dry, materials on the ground is thick because of the hurricane that we had last year. So all these things add together to create serious issues when it comes to us trying to address the fire.”