TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Fires blamed on arsonists have devoured 30,875 acres (12,500 hectares) of forest since the rains stopped in late February, said Lucky Medina, head of forest fire prevention at the Honduran Forest Development Corporation, on Thursday. Smoke from the fires covered swathes of Honduras in an acrid haze as the blazes burned twice as much land this month as they did in March 1999. “Since the dry season began at the end of February, 12,500 hectares of forest have been burned. We’ve had more than 400 fires. In the same time-frame last year, around 6,000 hectares (240 acres) were torched,” Medina told Reuters.
Medina blamed arsonists for the fires because farmers don’t start slash-and-burn blazes until April.
Last year was relatively wet, and the number of fires throughout the region low. But 1998 saw smoke blowing north as far as Texas in the United States, where schools were closed because of the health dangers to children.
Medina said the land burned in Honduras in 1999 totalled 135,850 acres (55,000 hectares), compared to 247,000 acres (100,000 hectares) in 1998.