Firefighters Tackle Costa Rica's Chirripo National Park Fire
A blaze that authorities say may have been started by drug traffikers has burned more than 100 hectares in Chirripo National Park.
Members of Costa Rica’s Firefighters’ Corps work to establish a perimeter around a fire that started Monday and enveloped 120 hectares at Chirripo National Park. Strong winds made battling the fire difficult, and firefighters and volunteers continued working to get it under control.
A fire apparently started in an act of vengeance, as firefighters struggle to control the blaze due to strong winds.
The damage mainly affected an area of the reserve called La Amistad International Park, near Costa Rica’s border with Panama in the Southern Zone.
Approximately 110 firefighters and volunteers from the local Costa Rica community are battling the fire. Members of the Costa Rican Firefighters’ Corps told the news station that the department is requesting more financial and human resources to put out the blaze.
Authorities believe an arsonist caused the fire, likely a hunter or drug trafficker, since the fire started in a hard-to-reach patch about 2,200 meters up the mountain. It takes about two hours of walking on rough, wooded trails to reach the initial point where the fire started. Bernal Valderrama, the park’s director, told the daily La Nación that in spots around the park, police officers frequently had destroyed marijuana plantations.
Valderrama told the newspaper that the blaze not only threatens the forest, but also water supplies for dozens of communities in Pérez Zeledón, a Southern Zone area.
Firefighters thought they had the fire under control Wednesday, but strong winds in the region, reaching speeds of 40 to 50 kph, whipped the flames through treetops between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., according to authorities.
Fire Department Director Héctor Chávez told Radio Reloj that emergency workers have made an eight-kilometer barrier, or fire line, around the blaze by clearing out brush and other flammable material that could feed the flames. The crew still needed to build another 1.6-km barrier to complete the ring around the fire. Firefighters and volunteers are using machetes, shovels, hatchets and chainsaws to construct the loop.
The National Emergency Commission declared a yellow alert Thursday and sent supplies to teams based at five control points around the park’s boundaries. The commission sent food, water, blankets and communications equipment.
Chirripo guides and police officers also are securing the perimeter to make sure no visitors enter vicinities near the fire. No serious injuries have been reported.
Chirripo National Park is home to Costa Rica's highest point, Cerro Chirripo. Last weekend was the annual Chirripo Marathon, a race where participants sprint to the top of the mountain. The Costa Rica event took place in a different area from the fire.