The high temperatures particularly in the inland areas are not the only heat that residents have had to deal with in recent weeks. We have been reporting on the forest fires in the south and out west that have posed a health hazard for residents. The natural spontaneous combustion have been accompanied with intentionally lit fires by farmers and those burning garbage. These actions have made it a very busy season for the firefighters but their efforts are proving unsuccessful. According to Chief Executive Officer in the Department of the Environment(DoE), Percival Cho told Love News that they are now seeking an aircraft alternative.
Percival Cho, CEO, Department of Environment: “The temperatures are very high and around midday also we have wind picking up and so these conditions are prime for fires and right now there are at least three of them around the south west of Belmopan. One of them we think we think we have pretty much under control and the other two are burning on the outskirts but we’re exploring different tactics now because fighting the fires on the ground one at a time by hand is proving almost futile and so we’re exploring the possibility of dumping water from the air. That’s the latest development, by this evening we would have made some arrangements to see about getting the first air drop tomorrow morning when the wind conditions are favorable and the airplane can maneuver around but that’s where we are. Fortunately there have been no properties in terms of houses lost, no lives lost but the situation is very critical. Previous fires that were strictly within the agricultural landscape in the area to the east and south of Belmopan those fires in the agricultural landscape escaped into the surrounding hills and the surrounding bushes and some of the embers flew several hundred feet away into Belmopan into some of the heavily vegetated areas and there’s an area just to the east of the new layout I think it’s called Mountain View in Belmopan and there’s some high vegetation within this particular area and that has caught fire and it is smoking very heavily and affecting residents of the Tiger Town area and the Las Flores area of Belmopan. So these agricultural fires have now really burnt themselves out and they’ve spread into the surrounding bush which we now calle wildfires and those take on an entirely new character by themselves, they create their own wind, they create even greater drying conditions ahead of the fire and they tend to feed themselves and so it’s a strange moment when you’re fighting wildfires inside a city and you’re fighting forest fires inside an urban area, it is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.”
With the many homes and families being affected by the smoke and fires, the Department of the Environment has teamed up with the Water Forest Reserve to conduct a critical assessment into the fires.
Percival Cho, CEO, Department of Environment: “At the moment the fires are within Belmopan and San Ignacio, they’re being fed by these weather conditions. We are going to have a close discussion with the team out west in the Vaca Forest Reserve after they return from fighting the fires today to make a critical assessment but at the moment the situation is critical, people are suffering from the amount of smoke that’s affecting these communities and like we said we’re employing new methods of fighting the fire and hopefully those give some positive results because it’s too many fires to be fighting by hand and so we’ll engage that and see how that goes but it is still within control at the moment. At the moment the focus is on outing the fires and getting rid of the smoke. I don’t know if the Ministry of Health or the other agencies are receiving reports of respiratory complications but certainly the smoke is intense, it comes on in the evenings when the wind dies down and so hopefully with the new interventions like I said we’re going to implement the situation with the smoke would be reduced and Belmopan residents in the areas affected can have some relief.”
The Department has three ongoing investigations into fires being lit. On Tuesday, April 21 regulations from the DoE via a Statutory Instrument prohibited burning of bushes, milpa, agricultural fields, pastures, grass, and household and yard waste.