The forest fires facing the province of Guanacaste have significant environmental costs, but the financial cost is also high.
According to data supplied by the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC – Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion), controlling forest fires costs more than ¢50 million ($93,750) annually.
In 2014 alone, the institution spent ¢56,641,000 ($106,000), of which ¢17 million ($32,000) was provided by private businesses, ¢2.3 million ($4,300) by NGOs and some ¢37 million ($69,500) by Sinac. Last year, the institution counted some 3950.5 hectares affected.
In the current year, Sinac’s fire brigades have been employed to fight several fires, including one in the Cerros biological corridor in Guastomatal de la Mansion, which consumed some 350 hectares and took two weeks to control.
On March 9, the MINAE and firefighters brigades were able to control a fire that originated in the Cerros del Llano between Florida and San Antonio. The fire lasted for more than two weeks and destroyed a huge area of forest totaling an estimated 400 hectares.
According to Oscar Hernandez, coordinator of the Regional Fire Management Program, one of the primary causes of fires in Guanacaste is agriculture.
“Many farmers, to avoid the cost of working the land and paying workers to ‘chop,’ what they do is use fire. The problem is that for lack of knowledge they don’t consider the consequences and the wind or other factors causes them to expand and they cause forest fires,” said Hernandez.
In addition, Hernandez explained that it’s very common in summer for people to burn waste, which can be uncontrolled.
“I’m calling on residents to avoid burning leaves, which is part of the culture in this area; it’s because of that practice that we have had to fight several fires. Let’s remember that we are experiencing the influence of the El Niño phenomenon and strong winds that are abnormal for this time of year; that causes vegetative material to dry faster and when there’s fire, it spreads quickly,” said Hernandez.
Regarding the significant fires battering the province, Sinac is motivating residents to file complaints regarding any kind of vandalism or burning that could cause a forest fire, and in case of seeing one, to report it immediately to 911.