Wildfires in Toledo District Prompt State of Public Emergency; NEMO Intensifies Efforts

Wildfires in Toledo District Prompt State of Public Emergency; NEMO Intensifies Efforts

Tonight, residents of the Toledo District remain under threat from the destructive wildfires ravaging the San Pedro Columbia Forest Reserve and surrounding communities. Yesterday, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) announced that a state of public emergency was declared in the district amid efforts to extinguish the fires. The entity has been working with local firefighters, soldiers, other government agencies, and citizens to tackle the effects of the disaster since last Friday. This evening, National Emergency Coordinator Daniel Mendez provided an update on the situation.

Captain Daniel Mendez, NEMO Coordinator: “The activities that have been conducted over the past few days have been focused on two things; damage and needs assessments, number one. We do have teams in the affected area of San Pedro, Columbia, Crique Jute, and in that area conducting assessments, damage assessments. And we also have teams also looking at other areas in the district, areas of interest. We continue to monitor the fire situation. We are aware that there are, continue to be pockets of fires in different areas of the district. And we continue to maintain elements on standby in case we need to respond to, and to send some assistance to those affected areas. Like I said, in general, we continue to remain on standby. The district office is in operation and we have also ensured that there are more NEMO officers in support of the operation.”

For several days, the district has been battling with poor air quality and increased heat. Mendez says since Sunday, the intensity of the fires has begun to decrease and noted that residents from across the country can chip in to support NEMO’s efforts. 

Captain Daniel Mendez, NEMO Coordinator: “I don’t want to say that they’ve subsided. I know there are still some active smaller fires and then we are keeping an eye on them and ensuring that we want to be as ready as possible in case there’s a need to deploy. Yes, I do believe it has become better. The fires aren’t as large as they were. There is of course smoke in the district and the air quality has improved a bit, but again, it’s a thing that can change very quickly. So we are in close communication with other NEMO partners, such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education. These remain active and we continue to monitor all of this.”

Reporter: What would maybe be some equipments or tools that can be provided to assist now, if needed? 

Captain Daniel Mendez, NEMO Coordinator: “Yes, so at this point the more urgent need would be basic equipment to fight fires such things such as machetes, shovels, backpack water pumps and so on. The fires are in some difficult areas and so these are the only ways that we have been able to fight these. So this is really just basic equipment. This is what we would be asking, really asking if anyone wants to donate. These are the things that we would be happy to have. And other things such as weed eaters that are strong enough to be able to help us create fire paths.”

In light of the situation, the Ministry of Education has suspended classes in the district for all levels yesterday and today. However, we understand that classes will resume to normal tomorrow.  We further understand, however, that schools in the immediate affected areas will coordinate with the ministry to ensure the safety of students.

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