Monday, April 16, 2007


There are two natural disasters that are cause for major alarm on an island: Hurricanes and fires. Guanaja suffered through a devastating hurricane in 1998; Hurricane Mitch which was a Category 5 hurricane and which did something very rare - it stayed in one spot over the island for 3 days!
We have suffered several forest fires since our arrival on the island in 1997. A couple of years ago, during a dry period, a fire started at the North end of the island. These fires, as of late, have always had there beginnings from the hand of man. Unfortunately, on the island we have people who seem quite oblivious to what they are doing when burning trash and pile up huge piles of debris, set fire to it and then walk away. Never are preparations made for an emergency like having water on hand to put out anything that gets out of control. Once the fire starts to spread, the people who started it, in general, walk away and do nothing and allow the fire to spread. We have had several such fires on the island. They burn for days until they either burn themselves out or rain arrives. For the most part, these fires happen during dry periods and there ultimately is no rain to control them so people watch from a distance and wait for the fire to burn itself out. We do have a fire department on the island (which was only organized about 3 years ago) but, for the most part, they have limited equipment and worse, very few men on the staff.

Generally, when a fire breaks out people in the area will gather up all volunteers and, armed with shovels and rakes, they set forth to battle the blaze. Everyone knows they cannot put the fire out but they do their best to contain it.

The fire I have photos of (compliments of my friend, Cathy Springer) started one day and in a couple days quickly spread to Sandy Bay where homes of shop owners, government employees or people who own fishing boats are located.

Probably because of its location, this time people called on the local government in Tegucigalpa to give aid and assistance. It is rare that the government of Honduras lends a hand in these situations, especially on Guanaja, but this time lives and homes were threatened and they sent in aid in the form of helicopters.

What a sight to see these huge choppers come in with their huge water bags, fly out over the ocean, fill the bags with water and turn and head toward land where they deposited their load.

From our boat on the water, we had a wonderful opportunity to catch this operation and take photos. Several trips were made but, alas, eventually problems developed with the bags they were filling and the operation had to cease because of some defect in the system. I am happy to report, however, that the deliveries of what water they could retrieve helped considerably in containing the fire.

It was amazing how the helicopter could find the best spot to unload the payload especially with all the smoke they had to fly through.

The fire continued on for another day but was finally under control. The fire burned approximately a total of 4 days and thankfully no lives were lost or homes.


  1. That is a scary thing! I wonder if the person who started the fire was saying...."Si Dios quiere," like it didn't have anything to do with him.

    I'm glad they got the fire put out without too much damage. I wonder how it will affect the wildlife.

  2. Hey Sharon you are really doing a great job with your blog. I'm enjoying reading it and it was fun today to see some of my pictures of the fire on there. Cathy