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Raging wildfire in San Pedro Colombia Village, Toledo

GeneralRaging wildfire in San Pedro Colombia Village, Toledo

Photo: Daniel Mendez, National Emergency Coordinator, NEMO

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 16, 2024

For some days now, there has been an increase in wildfires that have been occurring in various locations of the country. Recently, if you are a regular commuter of the West, you’d be one of those travelers who have witnessed the thick cloud of smoke hovering across the George Price Highway due to fires alongside the road.

These fires are common during this time of year and are usually caused by farmers implementing the slash-and-burn method, which is traditionally manageable; however, there have been large bodies of fire that have been occurring, especially in the southern portion of the country, and many acres of land have been consumed by the flames.

Recently, reports began to circulate of a fire in San Pedro Columbia Village, Toledo District, the flames stretching out approximately three miles, ultimately destroying plantations, wildlife, and homes belonging to residents of the village.

According to Daniel Mendez, National Emergency Coordinator at the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), they are aware of the ongoing fires, especially the ones in the south. He added that NEMO committee members in the Toledo District are advising members of the Toledo Emergency Operations Center on how they can address the issue.

“There have been several committees that have been activated and have been aiding relief and supplies committees. We’re looking at damage assessment and others. We also have had the collaboration with other partners, including the Ya’axché Conservation Group, TIDE (Toledo Institute for Development and Environment), and then the other government agencies that are responsible for addressing and responding to disaster situations in the country,” he said.

“… Those offices in Toledo have been mobilized and have begun their work of assessing what has been happening and what the needs are of the communities that are being affected. We have also been conducting on-the-ground assessments as well. We are in communication with all our partners, also at the national level. The Ministry of the Economy and Disaster Risk Management is fully aware of the situation, and we are preparing to provide as much support as necessary to the area,” he continued.

As mentioned above, the fire reportedly destroyed residents’ properties in the area, which was confirmed by Mendez. He noted that assistance would be provided to them as early as tomorrow (Friday, May 17), as the fire had been happening for some weeks.

“We continue to monitor the situation, because the fires are continuing, and so it’s an ongoing situation where we will continue to be on the ground, continue to provide, continue to do assessments, and continue to provide this support to any future families who are affected,” said Mendez.

He highlighted that neighboring villages such as Crique Jute are being monitored and are in dialogue with the village leaders.

(AMANDALA Ed. Note: During this ongoing heatwave with high winds also blowing, the danger of fire is great, especially in old sections of Belize City where wooden homes are still bunched close together. Take care, Belize!)

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