Forest fire in Los Alerces National Park is ‘out of control’

Almost 600 hectares have been consumed by flames since Thursday, with strong winds and intense heat making the situation worse

An ongoing wildfire has swept at least 577 hectares of forest in Los Alerces National Park, Chubut province. The fire is “out of control,” according to fire brigade authorities, while strong winds and intense heat are making the situation worse.

Provincial and national fire brigades are working to prevent the fire from reaching nearby towns such as Esquel and Trevelin. The flames are torching the native forest area, which was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2017, and haven’t affected camping sites in the park so far.

According to the local environment undersecretariat, the fire first broke out on Thursday in two separate locations, very near to each other, and merged as flames spread. It is currently affecting the Centinela Creek area inside the national park, although the fire has now spread beyond the park’s borders.

Mario Cárdenas, head of the local fire department, told Télam on Saturday that it is “out of control” and expected that it would take several days to subdue. On Sunday morning, brigades were struggling to work due to lack of visibility because of the smoke and were unable to extinguish the fire from the air.

“The smoke concentrating in the Futalafquen Lake valley is taking away visibility,” Cárdenas said. “[Firefighters] are stationed waiting for the smoke to go away so they can start working.”

Internal roads within the park such as those near La Torta, El Dedal, Alto El Petiso, Cocinero, Quebrada del León and La Balsa mountains have been closed and extreme precaution is advised while going through route 71, which surrounds Futalafquen Lake and crosses Centinela Creek.

Park authorities pointed out that starting fires is banned in the free-use areas in national parks and advised people to choose another date to visit the park, or otherwise stay alert to any indications while inside it.

Argentina has been suffering from large wildfires, especially during summer, for at least four years now. While they were mainly attributed to the climate crisis and the intense drought from 2020 to 2023, there were also reports of many being intentional.

Since 2020, the Fire Management law has protected natural areas from intentional or accidental fires and bans burnt land from being sold for 30 to 60 years to prevent speculative practices or the real-estate sector from taking advantage of this. In December, President Javier Milei said he would overturn the law among hundreds of others within his economic deregulation mega-decree, but he ended up not including it in the document.

—with information from Télam


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