Fires in The Chiquibul Forest
The fires in the Chiquibul Forest were also dramatic and a cause of high concern for FCD as co-managers of the park. The high temperatures and accumulation of fuel from fallen trees from the last hurricane created the right environment for the explosion of wild fires across the tropical forest. Although tropical broadleaf forests tend to burn slow and fires normally do not consume much virgin forests due to the humidity in trees, this time it was different.
The fires were started by farmers from Guatemala through slash and burn method of cultivation. Farmlands and pasture lands have been used over the years by rural Guatemalan communities, many of them even within the park limits. These fires eventually became wild fires and started to consume not only secondary forest but virgin forests of the Caracol Archaeological Reserve and Chiquibul National Park. Due to the remoteness of these fires, coupled with steep areas and FCD’s lack of fire-fighting skills and tools, these fires went on devouring the forest for many days. FCD Park Rangers battled the fires by opening fire lines in more accessible areas, but by then the fires had passed through any possible buffer of containment.
A recent FCD study titled, A Remote Sensing Damage Analysis of the Chiquibul Forest Impacted by the 2020 Forest Fires, shows that a total of 8,216.46 acres were impacted in the Chiquibul Forest, which represents 3,284.42 acres in the Caracol Archaeological Reserve and another 4,932.04 acres in the Chiquibul National Park. The results of this study reveal that the 2020 forest fires were devastating and there is an urgent need for an increased intervention to reduce agricultural incursions and cattle ranching that prevents further degradation of the forest.