Raging Wildfire Endangers San Antonio Village, Cayo: Residents Battle to Protect Water System

Raging Wildfire Endangers San Antonio Village, Cayo: Residents Battle to Protect Water System

Over the weekend, huge flames threatened the livelihoods of dozens of residents in San Antonio Village, Cayo. Last week, a wildfire broke out in the surrounding hills near the village and within days the flames fanned out. The destructive fires threatened the community’s water system and forced villages to act. Reporter Vejea Alvarez tells us more.

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: This weekend, in a heart-pounding ordeal, residents of San Antonio Village, Cayo, narrowly escaped destructive wildfires, thanks to the rapid and coordinated efforts of their community and local authorities. The terrifying incident unfolded as dry conditions and gusty winds fueled the flames that broke out last week. Since then, according to National Emergency Coordinator Daniel Mendez,  the fires have been nearing the community’s edge, causing panic to grip the villagers as they realize the imminent danger.

Captain Daniel Mendez, National Emergency Coordinator, NEMO: “It’s not one single fire. It’s a series and every time the community puts out one another develops and so it is a constant process of trying to keep an eye on this. It’s not one particular area. The community has done significant amounts of work trying to control it but they need to continue, they keep having presence there, they keep trying to control any small flare ups that appear periodically. So it’s not one particular area but the system in the south is quite large and so it needs to have constant monitoring.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: The villagers continue to face a harrowing battle against the encroaching wildfires that threaten to engulf their homes, livelihoods, and water system. Fortunately, the village’s Chairman Aron Tzib says the situation prompted residents to band together in a courageous fight to protect their community.

Aaron Tzib, Chairman, San Antonio Village: “If the pipelines get damaged we’re gonna be out of water, the whole community is going to be out of water because the pipeline is coming all the way to the Mountain Pine Ridge area and is feeding the whole community. The community is approximately three to four thousand in population and then well what helped us is that from the time we saw that the fire was expanding we acted and we were proactive and we went there with the community members.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: Rene Tzib is one of the residents who sprang into action and formed impromptu brigades. He explained that while the groups were armed with only their machetes and the determination to save their homes, they stopped the infernos from advancing.

Rene Tzib, Volunteer: “All the groups they’re working very hard right now but we need some more water and like the heat right now is very hot so they said they will leave it just like that but it’s already controlled already all around.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: Apart from saving the community on Sunday, the villagers, the National Emergency Management Organization, and the Itzamna Society Group were able to prevent the Elijio Panti National Park from being destroyed. Jose Perez, Executive Director of APAMO, highlighted the efforts and commended the NGO.

Jose Perez, Executive Director, APAMO: “This is a testimony of the work that these groups have been doing over the years apart from deterring illegal hunting and illegal extraction of timber. Having eyes on the ground for incidents like these during the fire season they’re the first ones to notice these fires and activate a response.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: Fortunately, the fires have not caused damage to property in the village, according to Tzib.

Aaron Tzib, Chairman, San Antonio Village: “I can say it’s only the jungle to my rear that is what got damaged. No farmers have gotten any damage but this village here is known as a farming community. Here I think this community is what is producing a lot of our vegetables that we provide to the country of Belize. Some of us might think the fire is only a fire but we are trying to fight climate change, we’re trying to help in that way that we try to protect the trees, we try to plant instead of cutting. We’re putting back the forest but when we see like disasters like this happen in my heart I feel the nature is getting destroyed.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: And while the residents have kept the fires at bay, National Emergency Coordinator, Captain Daniel Mendez, says the situation can intensify rapidly. He is now pleading for people to be careful when dealing with fires, particularly in an open setting.

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