Wildfires rage across the west of Belize

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The Forest Department, the Department of the Environment and other agencies including the Fire Department, the Belmopan City Council, and the business community continue to join forces to fight fires around Belmopan and out west in the Vaca Forest Reserve. Major successes were recorded on Sunday around Belmopan and in the Vaca Forest Reserve.
On Sunday, two wildfires in the area of northeast Belmopan were successfully controlled by the Forest Department along with help from the Belmopan City Council and Westar Services. The crew remained dedicated to the task well into the night to ensure the fires would not reignite. The smoke from these fires has now subsided and by Monday morning in north Belmopan, the conditions are much improved. Throughout the course of Monday, the situation was monitored closely to ensure there are no flare ups. The dedicated officers of the Forest Department, Fire Department, Mayor and staff of the Belmopan City, as well as workers of Westar Services are to be commended for their effort and service to their community. The crew will now move to address other escaped fires in the south area of Belmopan. Fortunately, the weather conditions have improved and daytime temperatures are now in the mid 90s as opposed to 107 degrees Fahrenheit experienced last week.
Meanwhile, a large wildfire in the Vaca Forest Reserve with multiple fronts was brought under control by the Forest Department wildland fire crew from the Mountain Pineridge Forest Reserve. This fire was burning on multiple fronts – east, south and west, and was responsible for much of the smoke hovering over Benque Viejo, San Ignacio and Santa Elena. The most aggressive fire on the eastern flank was brought under control by Sunday evening. As a result of this, the conditions in the San Ignacio, Benque and Santa Elena have vastly improved, and there is less smoke in the air. The dedicated officers of the Forest Department are to be commended for their effort and service to their community. The Forest Department fire crew will continue to fight the fires on the southern and western flanks in order to prevent further spread into the Chiquibul National Park.
There are wildfires in other parts of the country including around the St. Herman’s Cave, Springfield, and Bladen Nature Reserve, and through the help of partners from the Belize Audubon Society, Y’axche Conservation Trust and Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, these fires are being fought with the dedicated efforts of their staff. These organizations and other business community members are to be commended for their effort and service to their community.
The Mayor of Benque Viejo Marconi Sosa has expressed its most heartfelt gratitude to Lisel Alamilla and Christina Garcia in particular to the Y’axche Conservation Trust members that made their way up to Benque Viejo to assist the 106 Benqueños that were already at task dealing with the immense forest fires. According to Mayor Sosa, they did their first task with great success and will continue to assist the Benque Viejo forest fire team.
“I am so greatful for the Benque Viejo Fire fighter’s Team in particular to Gomer Enriquez and Marlon Jimenez who took their time to meet with them and to assist with the coordination and excellent team performance on the firefighting experience. We are extremely grateful to the people that made themselves available with preparing the food and with the team that made the food available to the Y’axche Conservation Trust and all the members of the team during this first of three days,” said Mayor Sosa.
He continued, “I must say that the Benque Fire Fighting Team had been there on the task for one day doing their best! I know that there are a lot more people were part of this firefighting experience which have not been mentioned! It must not go untold the assistance that the Benque Viejo Fire Fighting Team led by Mr. Ervin Rudon have been giving the municipality of Benque Viejo and San Jose Succotz all throughout the sunny dry season. I must indicate my great satisfaction with the great team that was organized and led by Succotz residents. I believe that these bush fires affect the livelihood of everyone in the area and we are so grateful for Lisel Alamilla, the Y’ axche Conservation Trust, the Benque Viejo and Succotz Fire Fighting Teams for their time and effort.”
A note from the Cristo Rey Village Council confirms the intensity of the fires. The Cristo Rey Emergency Response team was activated and got ready to mitigate the fires surrounding their community. After a week of walking through hilly and rough terrain, bearing over 100 degrees heat, facing danger with snakes, they began to see a difference with the flames. The responding Cristo Rey team went the extra mile and had a 12-hour battle with fire.
The Cristo Rey Village Council would like to thanks those who assisted with water, breakfast, snacks, lunch, Powerade, Gatorade or any other type of support. (The Pech Family, Raptor Center, Ms. Virginia Krohn, Ernie Juarez, Andy Tut, Patrick T Karney and Jasmin Montalvan).
Belmopan residents were also complaining about the smoke that has descended over the city. Mayor Khalid Belisle is confident that the worst has passed.
“In regards to the fire issue I know a lot of people have been expressing their concern about it the health issues posed and just the general inconvenience of it. Well I can tell you over the past few days or so the Department of the Environment via the Forestry Department in particular has been partnering with the local fire department as well as volunteers from the Belmopan City Council namely the Traffic Department to extinguish as much as they can some of these fires that have been burning in the peripheral areas of the city,” he said.
Mayor Belisle also added, “I must thank Mr. Nelson Gallardo who generously donated his water truck over the weekend to assist in the effort, the council’s water truck of course was on hand and the guys from the fire department who have continued to tackle this issue. I think we woke up this morning to a much clearer city in terms of the skies but of course in terms of air quality we’re seeing a major improvement there so we just continue to push and we ask that the residents continue to bear with us while we get things back to what’s going to be the new normal going forward.”