Guatemalan president declares natural disaster as 44 forest fires continue burning

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — President Bernardo Arévalo issued a natural disaster declaration Wednesday as 44 forest fires continue to burn across the country. Arévalo said that 80% of the fires were started by people. Farmers often burn stubble and grass in their fields around this time of year in preparation for planting.”The current situation is not a coincidence, 80% of those fires were set,” Arévalo said. Authorities canceled classes across three central provinces to protect students from the prevailing smoke. One of the largest fires is near a suburb of Guatemala City, the capital. The declaration frees up funding for fire fighting efforts. Guatemala is more accustomed to dealing with its restive volcanoes than forest fires.