Over the pass two weeks I have witnessed an increased number of forest fires along the northern range in Trinidad and Tobago, Guardian Newspapers reported that Northern Division Fire Service which consist of 11 Fire Stations between Sangre Grande to Chaguaramas recorded 173 wildfires on Saturday 9th May, 2015 and are responding to an average of 100 wildfires per day, as Trinidad and Tobago experiences one of its worst dry season. Now the flames that have engulfed the large portions of the Northern Range forest may seem harmless to those living far away, but it is worth noting that forest fires have a greater impact on our environment and economy.
Fire in the hills of Maraval
A forest fire is defined as being an uncontrolled fire that occurs in the wilderness, forest fires usually occur in hot and dry climates during the hottest months of the year. Trinidad and Tobago forest fires (also referred to as bush fires or wild fires) claims NEMA are signature events of the dry season which normally extends from January to May, the number of fires and the extent of damages they cause, vary from year to year depending on the existing physical and environmental conditions of the land, and the severity of the dry season essentially the amount and distribution of rainfall, factors affecting its severity depends also on the size and frequency of the fires.
Damaged forest as a result of Forest Fire
Forest fires can occur from natural causes or human carelessness and accidents, spreading very quickly and clearing acres of land, natural forest fires play a key role in shaping the ecosystem by serving as an agent of renewal and change, but they can be very deadly damaging the ecosystem and many aquatic lives, destroying and damaging vegetation, animal and wildlife habitats, homes and threatening lives, and timber, also they pollute the air with emissions harmful to human health.
Forest fires also releases carbon dioxide (CO2) a key greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and their effects on the landscape may be long-lasting, the most severe consequences will be experienced in the rainy season during the months between June – December, months after the fires have actually burned the forests. This is realized in severe floods and landslides, which occurs when the rainfall directly impact upon the soil instead of a protective forest cover, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization states that the relationship between forest and climate change is intricate, since forest mitigates climate change by absorbing carbon, but they also contribute to climate change once they are degraded or destroyed.
House Destroyed by Wildfire in Belmont, Trinidad and Tobago
The only real way to curb the occurrences of human induced forest fires are through education and awareness, Global Forest Watch, estimates that the economic value of Trinidad and Tobago’s forestry sector contributed US$86.9 million to the economy in 2011, which is approximately 0.4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, hence the importance of the forest to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. While, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service Association Leo Ramkissoon advised the public in a recent interview to be vigilant and report any fire immediately by calling the hotline 877-FIRE (3473), and that they should acquire a fire fighting devices such as fire extinguisher in their homes, in particular to avoid another occurrence of Saturday’s fire in Belmont destroying homes and displacing residents.
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 2015. Fines for Forest Fires may rise – May 12, 2015. Source- http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2015-05-12/fines-forest-fires-may-rise.
FAO, 2015. The role of forest protected areas in adaptation to climate change. source- http://www.fao.org/docrep/011/i0670e/i0670e13.htm
National Emergency Management Agency, 2000. Forest Fires in Trinidad and Tobago. Source -http://wikieducator.org/images/temp/c/c6/20080722170356!Forest_Fire_In_TrinidadandTobago.pdf
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