Oil company blamed for fire in Belize national park

2 May 2012

At the end of March in southern Belize the sun beats down through blackened trees onto what was the only known low-lying sphagnum moss bog in Central America. Now it is an expanse of ash and pale crusts of burned moss onto which dragonflies settle briefly before passing on. Fire spread through the area at the end of February 2012, and since then reeds have begun to sprout, but otherwise it remains a scene of devastation with no sign that the moss is regenerating.

The sphagnum bog is in a remote area of the Sarstoon Temash National Park close to the Guatemalan border, and due to operational constraints this is the first time that park rangers and their military escorts have seen the area since the blaze. Oil company workers conducting seismic operations in the national park reported—while the fire was still burning—that company activities ignited the area on February 25 close to a seismic line running through the bog. Rain and the oil company itself extinguished the fire two and a half days later.