Saturday, April 20, 2024

1,000 firefighters combat blazes in Veracruz as wildfires spike nationwide

Six forest fires that began over the weekend in the high mountains of central Veracruz have consumed 1,670 hectares and at least 20 homes in the state as of Wednesday, while the number of active wildfires in Mexico has quickly increased this week.

State authorities have announced that there are active fires in 14 municipalities in Veracruz, which are between 50% and 90% controlled as of early Wednesday.

Fire brigades in Veracruz
As of Wednesday, there are 1,000 firefighters working to extinguish the wildfires in the state. (Cuartoscuro)

In Minatitlán, the fires near Pemex’s Lázaro Cárdenas refinery produced a cloud of black smoke observable from various points in southern Veracruz on Tuesday.

The state government also reported a fire had broken out at the Ixtaczoquitlán industrial park on Tuesday morning, which reached the facilities of International Paper. No injuries have been reported and task forces were attending to the incident.

According to Governor Cuitláhuac García, an investigation is underway to determine whether the fire was caused by agricultural burning, a rural practice of burning the soil to prepare it for new planting. 

The government of Veracruz has warned that anyone who causes such fires will be punished with one to six years in prison and fines of up to 75,000 pesos (US $4,500).

A helicopter over a smoking forest fire
A Navy helicopter has been brought in to help combat the blazes in Veracruz. (SSP Veracruz/X)

Authorities have faced criticism for their delayed response to the ongoing forest fires at all levels of government since Saturday. 

Residents of Orizaba and other municipalities have expressed their willingness to assist authorities and vulnerable populations in addressing the fires in Veracruz’s central region. They have offered water from their cisterns, water tanks and even swimming pools for emergency services to use in fighting the flames. 

The intensity of the blazes led to aerial firefighting operations, with a helicopter provided by the Navy (Semar) dropping water discharges at strategic locations.

According to a report from Milenio newspaper, there are over 1,000 firefighters combating the fires from the National Guard (GN), Defense Ministry (Sedena), state Environment Ministry (Sedema) and municipal brigades.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters on Wednesday morning that there are currently 116 active fires across the country — 20 in México state alone — up from 95 active fires reported in 18 states by the National Forestry Commission (Conafor) at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday.

In January, Conafor had warned to expect an increase in wildfires this year as much of the country continues to experience drought conditions.

With reports from Latinus, El UniversalLa Jornada, Reforma and Milenio

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