JAMAICA – During the week of July 22nd, a team of USDA Forest Service Specialists traveled to Jamaica to collaborate with a local non-governmental organization, Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation on a fire management plan and to provide recommendations related to wildfire prevention in preparation for the next fire season. The team included Karen Curtiss, fire management specialist, Central Oregon Fire Management Service; Deschutes and Ochoco national forests; Prineville BLM and Mark Rapp, retired incident commander, Central Oregon Type II Incident Management Team.
C-CAM, established in 1997, promotes costal conservation in Jamaica. Its mission is to promote sustainable development of the Portland Bight Protected Area, which is located on the southern coast of Jamaica and composed primarily dry limestone forests with a smaller portion composed of wetlands with mangroves. The area is of high ecological and biological importance, providing habitat to many endemic species as well as 20 threatened species.
Due to the hot-dry climate of the PBPA, there are frequent wildland fires during the dry seasons from December through April and from June through July. In 2018, drought, followed by hurricane damage, followed by another drought, left the region particularly susceptible to wildland fires. The PBPA is expected to continue facing increased risk of wildland fires as drought conditions become more frequent.
A major aspect of the USDA Forest Service’s collaborative efforts in Jamaica is to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and manage disasters, including wildland fires. Over the past two years the USDA Forest Service, in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development, has provided several wildland fire trainings in Jamaica, many of which are focused on fire investigation. The Jamaica Fire Brigade now has 19 Qualified Wildland Fire Investigators, six of whom have been identified as JFB Wildland Fire Investigator Instructors. The JFB and C-CAM plan to work collaboratively to identify the cause and origin of fires in the PBPA so that future wildland fire prevention efforts can be as effective as possible.