19 de mayo de 2019
Hispanic World

Firefighters battle wildfires in 18 Mexican states

Mexico City, Apr 17 (epa-efe).- Ninety-five wildfires of different sizes are burning in 18 Mexican states and the authorities are attempting to control them using fire brigades that are working around the clock.

Mexico City, Apr 17 (epa-efe).- Ninety-five wildfires of different sizes are burning in 18 Mexican states and the authorities are attempting to control them using fire brigades that are working around the clock.

Nationwide, there have been at least 2,538 forest fires so far this year, and 3,465 firefighting units of the municipal, state and federal governments have been deployed to deal with them.

The National Forestry Commission (Conafor) reported earlier this month that since January there have been 2,097 registered fires which have destroyed up to 43,088 hectares (about 106,500 acres).

This figure is alarming enough, although it is less than the area destroyed during same period last year, when 3,317 fires affected 68,231 hectares.

Most of the fires have occurred in the states of Puebla, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, all in southern Mexico.

During a visit to Oaxaca, EFE noted that Conafor personnel were using several different methods to put down the flames.

As seen from a helicopter, the columns of smoke are clearly visible as they rise and mix with the clouds.

Fires can also be seen moving across the mountains and through forests, destroying anything in their path.

A representative of Conafor in Oaxaca, Oscar Mejia, told EFE that 111 fires have burned 6,616 hectares in that state.

This is "what places us in seventh place on the national list in terms of fires and in third place in terms of the affected area," he said.

Authorities attribute most of the fires to human carelessness, except for those that get started in Oaxaca's northern highlands as a result of lightning strikes.

But the rest "have been caused by smokers (and) by the burning of agricultural areas," Mejia said.

Emergency services officials agree with the claim that 90 percent of the fires are due to people's carelessness.

In 2018, Mexico registered 7,000 wildfires with 10 percent of those resulting from still smoldering cigarette butts people tossed on the ground in forests and fields.

Another leading cause of the blazes is farmers' practice of burning the stubble in their fields, along with campfires and barbecues.

Likewise, Mejia pointed out that it is in "April and May when Oaxaca's mountain communities" engage in the traditional practice of burning their fields prior to the rainy season to ensure a better crop of their staple foods.

This activity resulted in two fires on Sunday although authorities managed to "control and extinguish" them shortly thereafter.

The rainy season starts around mid-May or early June, reducing - from that point forward - the fire danger, which is mainly due to low water levels, low humidity and high concentrations of dry plant material that serves as fuel.

By Zoilo Carrillo.

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