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Remaining hot spots as of 8:00pm Monday. Remaining hot spots as of 8:00pm Monday.

3 municipalities seek emergency declaration for wildfires

Baja California fires' toll: three deaths, 10,000 hectares burned, 204 houses destroyed

The Baja California municipalities of Playas de Rosarito, Tijuana and Tecate have asked the state and federal governments to issue a disaster declaration due to the wildfires that destroyed 204 homes last week.

The fires also caused three deaths and burned 10,000 hectares of land, most of which is located in Ensenada.

The National Forestry Commission (Conafor) reported that two fires are still active outside of Ensenada, and firefighters are on the verge of putting out the fire in Tecate.

State authorities warned that the Santa Ana winds, the weather phenomenon that fanned the fires that broke out last Thursday, are expected to pick up again on Tuesday and Wednesday, creating the possibility of more fires.

State Civil Protection director Antonio Rosquillas Navarro said that 114 houses have burned in Tecate, 62 in Playas de Rosarito and 28 in Ensenada. His department estimates that an average of four people lived in each affected home.

“Rosarito and Tecate gave me their petitions for the disaster declaration. Tomorrow morning we will receive Ensenada’s, and then we’ll have the document ready for the governor to sign . . . on Tuesday. It will be sent to the federal government via an online portal,” Rosquillas said.

The declaration will seek aid to rebuild houses and reforest land that has lost native vegetation, but first it will have to be reviewed and approved by a number of government departments, including the secretariats of Finance and of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development.

Conafor legal representative Francisco Ávalos Hernández said that some of the worst damage has been seen in San José de la Zorra, where 7,300 hectares have burned. He also stated that he doesn’t believe the fires started naturally.

“The fires weren’t caused just by the wind,” he said. “There is undoubtedly a human factor in all of this.”

Both Ávalos and Rosquillas urged residents not to discard lit cigarette butts, light fires or dump trash on empty lots.

“Despite the requests for prevention, we see that people don’t follow the recommendations, but we’re going to continue insisting that they take precautions,” Rosquillas said.

Tijuana Mayor Arturo González Cruz has declared a pre-alert ahead of this week’s anticipated winds. He said that 71 houses and 3,500 hectares of meadowland have already burned in his municipality.

Source: Reforma (sp)

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