Fire prevention in Pine Ridge Print E-mail
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Thursday, 19 April 2018 00:00

February 15th to June 15th is considered the Fire Season in Belize. The increased possibilities of fires, due to warmer temperatures and less rainfall, have led to preventative measures being taken by the Forest Department and the National Emergency Management.

In the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in the Cayo District, prescribed burning is carried out on a regular basis to reduce the severity of forest fires.

“The objective of these burns [is] to reduce fuel loads, there’s too much fuel, the competition with pine is too high and we are managing this area for pine,” said Oscar Ulloa, Forest Officer, Forest Department. “When we look at Mountain Pine Ridge, pine is a seated fire. We have to put mechanisms in place to protect the pine forest.”

Prescribed burning is the process of planning and applying fire to a predetermined area, under specific environmental conditions. Since wildfires can become very hard to control, it involves careful planning, consultation and monitoring.

Forest Officer Raul Chun said that prescribed burning has definitely reduced the occurrence of wildfires and the efforts it takes to address them.

“A wildfire basically happens during the hottest part of the day or hottest part of the year and it is harder to control,” said Raul Chun, Forest Officer, Forest Department. “Wildfires basically are more costly because you have to mobilize more physical resources, human resources.”

According to the Forest Department, the burning also helps to enhance regeneration of the pine trees and to maintain the beauty and safety of the forest.

“We want young pines to come up,” Ulloa said. “If the fuel is too thick the seeds do not reach the soil so we remove the fuel to promote germination. For aesthetic value, beautify the place and again to remove threats. Sometimes we find people working in the forest, there’s a lot of snakes, of course we don’t want to kill all the snakes, they are very beneficial, but it cleans out the forest.”

The National Fire Service also plays its part during the Fire Season in keeping its members on alert and increasing the public’s awareness of fire safety.

“As per normal the fire service is preparing pamphlets for distribution to sensitize and educate the community,” said Ted Smith, Chief, National Fire Service of Belize. “How to reduce the likelihood of fire occurring in their area and how to prevent their homes from burning when they are not at home if a brush fire is to happen in their area.”

The National Fire Service engaged in a training program in February 2018 to strengthen the skills of firefighters across the country. The training was spearheaded by Archibald McFarlane, founder of the Virginia Emergency Service Assistance Program (VESAP) for Belize.

“We want to make sure that they are aware that as firefighters they have a job to do, and that is. to provide an excellent public service to the people of this country and to those who visit,” McFarlane said.

Hon. Edmund Castro, Minister of NEMO and Transport, said that the Belize Fire Service is being improved, and as first responders in emergency management these trainings are important.

“We want our people to be trained so that as first responders they could be there in the case of an accident, that they could stabilize the patient until the ambulance reaches there,” the Minister said. “So there’s a whole list of things that we are trying to bring to the Fire Department that will save lives and improve the country. Save us money, basically.”

Fire Chief Ted Smith said that his advice to the public in avoiding the risks of fires near their homes is to cut high bushy areas and keep their lands low. The Forest Department continues to execute regular prescribed burnings to protect the pine forests and wildlife.