The Sierra de Santiago fire on Wednesday night. The Sierra de Santiago fire on Wednesday night.

1,100 evacuated after winds fan flames of Nuevo León forest fire

The Sierra de Santiago fire was closing in on 14 communities

A total of 1,100 people in at least 14 communities of the Sierra de Santiago region of Nuevo León were evacuated from their homes overnight Wednesday after 90 kilometer-per-hour wind gusts refueled a 10-day wildfire that has already consumed more than 8,000 hectares of land.

Nuevo León Civil Protection officials had announced on Monday that the wildfire was 70% under control. But by Tuesday, high winds associated with cold front No. 44 and drought conditions reinvigorated the blaze, which began getting dangerously close to homes in the area on Wednesday.

Residents in communities in the blaze’s path who have not yet been evacuated are preparing for the possibility of leaving on their own, the newspaper Reforma reported.

Emergency authorities began at first by evacuating 80 people from the community of San Isidro yesterday evening. However, later into the night, as the fire advanced, authorities began evacuating larger numbers of people.

The gusts also forced firefighters to discontinue on Wednesday afternoon their efforts to extinguish the fire by helicopter.

The fire began in Arteaga, Coahuila, on March 16 and has extended over the border into Nuevo León, where authorities already have had to evacuate 400 residents in the municipality of Galeana as well as people from 19 other communities in a different part of the Sierra de Santiago.

Nuevo León firefighters have been battling four other wildfires in the state simultaneously.

Mexico is facing one of its worst forest fire seasons in a decade. Last month, the federal forestry agency Conafor issued a warning that due to drought conditions and the presence of La Niña weather phenomenon this year, Mexico was in danger of experiencing a critical wildfire season this year.

Already blazes have affected 29,559 hectares of forestlands nationwide, the third most extensive loss of forest lands in a decade, Conafor said in a report last week.

According to the most updated information available from the agency, there are currently 75 active wildfires in 20 states being fought by 3,593 emergency personnel.

Source: Reforma (sp), La Jornada (sp),  Excélsior (sp)

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