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Forest Fires

Forest fires in Meso-America

Forest Fire in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, Stann Creek District, between Cockscomb and Mayflower. 9 May 2003

The unusual dry and hot conditions in Central America and Mexico have resulted in many fires throughout the region during the 2003 dry season. All of these fires are set by farmers preparing their fields. Under the current dry conditions, these fires escape into the surrounding forest with devastating results. Normally the fire situation gets serious around May, this year it started in March with (statistically) another 2 months to go without any rain! There was a brief reprieve in the end of March when most places received good rainfall, but since then it has been dry countrywide. Since mid April forest fires are again threatening Belize's forests. Rains started in the last week of May, outing most fires.

Particularly at risk in Belize is the area affected by Hurricane Iris in 1991. This mainly as the result of the large mass of dry, combustible material. The 1992 dry season was relatively benign and relatively few forest fires erupted in the areas affected by the hurricane. 1993 was not so lucky. Early May a milpa fire near Golden Stream village escaped into the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve (Yaax Che) and quickly blossomed into a massive forest fire that crept northward into the hills of the Columbia River Forest Reserve. The satellite image to the left was taken on May 9, 2003, 16.45hr local time. Two smoke plumes are clearly visible in the Golden Stream/Columbia River areas. More on the east coast the fainter plume of the Stann Creek fire (picture top of page) is just visible. The Columbia River Forest Reserve Fire raged for more than three weeks. Rains starting around the 27th of May put an end to it.

For images that are updated every few hours, go to this Colorado State "Real-time Satellite Rainfall and Fire Products for Central America" site.

Read more about fires in Belize's forest ecosystems.

Sunday April 20, 2003.


These images were produced during the particularly bad period of March 18-20 and April 16 - 26, 2003. With a strong concentration of fires in the Western Peten district of Guatemala.

The red points are fires within the Selva Maya.

Satellite MODIS, Source: NASA-MSFC/CCAD-WB. See also the NASA webpage: "Mesoamerica Burning"

Click the images for a larger picture

Friday April 18, 2003

Wednesday April 16, 2003


The clouds over the Yucatán peninsula is smoke. Thursday March 20, 2003

Click for larger image

Tuesday 18 March 2003


Click for larger image

Wednesday 19 March 2003

Download the three March 2003 images as a powerpoint presentation (3071 kb)

Click here to see an animation (gif) depicting fires (Guatemala only) in the period 10 January 2003 - March 24, 2003.

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