Fires in Guanacaste Have Consumed More Than 1800 Hectares of Protected Areas

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The war against forest fires in Nicoya and Santa Cruz has several battle fronts. Four outbreaks of fires have conservation authorities on maximum alert, since they have seen fire destroy more than 1,800 hectares (4,450 acres) of secondary and primary forests in less than a week.

Since the beginning of April, fire has made itself at home in parks and biological corridors.

On April 7, burning began in Diria National Park in Santa Cruz, devouring some 800 hectares (1975 acres) of secondary forest that had been developing for more than 30 years. Meanwhile,  in Barra Honda National Park in Nicoya, fire has consumed another 200 hectares (495 acres).

The same situation is traversing the hills of Cerros de Jesus in the Mansion sector, whose biological corridor had already lost more than 300 hectares (740 acres) in early February, but a new fire has destroyed 500 hectares (1235 acres) at the moment.

For its part, the Corral de Piedra wetlands in Nicoya have been burning for four days, where 300 hectares (740 acres) have already been devastated by fire.

According to the director of the Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT-Area de Conservacion Tempisque), Nelson Marin, they suspect that all the fire outbreaks were caused intentionally.

“Everything seems to indicate that this is intentional fire since, in the cases of the parks Barra Honda and Diria, the fire started in the center where there are no private properties nearby, and in the other cases, we are looking into them since suspicions exist,” said Marin.

The Voice of Guanacaste visited Diria and from the Los Angeles de Arado viewpoint, it is possible to get a good look at the tall columns of smoke and fire that mercilessly afflict the dry vegetation in the foothills of Vista al Mar hill to the west, while in the northern sector toward Picudo hill, another conflagration threatens the dense mountains.

Jorge Castrillo, administrator of Diria Park, lamented the damage caused.

“The most unfortunate thing is that it has affected a very sensitive area, since we are dealing with the Rio En Medio river basin, which is one of the three watersheds that supply drinking water to the city of Santa Cruz, and being at a height of approximately 500 meters (1640 feet) above sea level allows its ecosystem to be different from the lower part of the park,” Castrillo said.

Castrillo explained that the damage to the ecosystem and the watershed can’t be calculated and is very difficult to replace.

For his part, Gerardo Cabalceta, a member of the fire brigade that is fighting the outbreak in Diria, explained the hardships being confronted while fighting the fire. “These are difficult places to get to. It takes us two hours to get to where we should make fire circles. There are parts it is impossible to get to. Sometimes what we do is use ropes to slide down one after another, sometimes in danger of hot rocks that break away from the flames falling on us ,” Cabalceta said.

About 100 people from the brigades and operational staff are redoubling efforts to take control of the fire. However, at the moment, control is relative, because although the fire is being neutralized, it will take several days to completely put out the spreading fire.