Eithel Barrantes, the deputy chief of firefighters in Nicoya, said that they frequently deal with bush fires. “Almost every day we have dealt with a bush fire, which generally happen because of carelessness, burning trash, and the wind helps spread the fire, mostly in the areas of Nosara and San Antonio,” the chief said.
Barrantes commented that on April 22 they fought a large fire in the Don Jose Forest of Nicoya, for which they needed the help of firefighters from Liberia, Santa Cruz, Filadelfia and Nandayure. The blaze devoured some 40 hectares (98 acres) of primary forest. “We had to deal with the case of the Don Jose Forest by mobilizing a large amount of equipment and personnel; it took two days to control the fire. The disaster started due to the carelessness of some farmers, who were preparing an area to plant corn. The burned area belongs to private farms,” the chief related.
During the first week in April, they also fought a fire on private farms in Cerro Caballito, very close to Barra Honda National Park. They were able to control it with the help of volunteers from the area that provide important support, brigades from MINAE (Ministry of Environment), and firefighters from Nicoya. According to Barrantes, about 20 hectares were affected in that fire.
Barrantes said that dealing with emergencies such as the Don Jose forest fire creates costs for the fire department of up to ₡3 million ($6,000) to mobilize equipment and permanent and volunteer personnel. It is necessary to request reinforcements from Liberia, Santa Cruz and Filadelfia, since Nicoya only has one fire truck and one support vehicle.
For the firefighters it is important to have the support of volunteers, as in the case of a group of foreigners that operates in Nosara, covering the area from Barco Quebrado to San Juanillo. The volunteers now have a national certification as forest firefighters, which was granted by the National Learning Institute (INA – Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje).
Ryan Bombard, chief of the Nosara volunteer firefighters, said that they have been very busy, mainly with bush fires, but also with some house fires. “We are getting more calls every year. What’s happening is as more people are building and moving into the area, the normal fires that would never be noticed are becoming noticed because now there’s houses in the area,” he explained.
Bombard said that the worst case this season was a bush fire close to Miss Sky Canopy in Nosara since they had to return to the site eight times during a week and a half. They put out the fire every time, but they believe that hunters in the area kept starting it again.
The volunteer firefighters have obtained a truck in North Carolina and are now trying to raise money to import it to Costa Rica. “Firefighting is not cheap. We do the best we can with what we got. It’s turning into a full time job for me where I don’t get paid for it,” said Bombard.