The weekend rains brought reprieve to residents in the north, west, and south after having bore weeks of forest fires and smoky air. This coincided with the conclusion of efforts by government officials to extinguish the fires.
The weekend rains brought reprieve to residents in the north, west, and south after having bore weeks of forest fires and smoky air. This coincided with the conclusion of efforts by government officials to extinguish the fires. A press release was issued over the weekend explaining that several departments and organizations have had to team up in recent weeks to invest in aerial firefighting to control what has been described as ‘unprecedented wildfires’, particularly in the Cayo District. The release goes on to say that the use of air tankers in aerial firefighting proved to be successful in controlling smoke, when combined with continued ground support, and is therefore considered to have been a worthwhile investment to safeguard public health and property. Fires that posed high to medium risk to human health were extinguished and hazardous smoke suppressed using aerial support, resulting in an immediate improvement in air quality. During the flights, the pilots were also able to extinguish wildfires threatening three residential structures with certain destruction. According to the release, the continued illegal and irresponsible use of fire by members of the public posed a threat to the progress made. In total, 187 water bombing flights were flown over the Cayo District by two aircraft, and countless hours of on-the-ground fire mopping-up exercises were conducted on live and smoldering 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 (PACT). 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 heavy rains that poured directly over the area. The firefighting efforts were made by the Forest Department, the National Fire Service, the municipal administration, PACT, Becol, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, and Sustainable Development.