Friday, July 12, 2024

Authorities say Oaxaca wildfire is now 95% under control

The wildfire in rural Oaxaca that claimed the lives of five people last week is 60% extinguished and 95% contained, according to a statement by government officials on Sunday.

A press conference held Sunday afternoon provided details about the 6-day, 704-hectare blaze in the state’s mountainous Central Valleys region, some 40 kilometers from the state capital Oaxaca City.

The fire has been burning for six days straight. (Salomón Cruz/X)

On Feb. 28, the day after the conflagration began, residents of San Lucas Quiaviní were attempting to keep the fire from reaching their village when the advancing flames surged and took the lives of five farmers.

Since then, the firefight was taken over by the Defense Ministry (Sedena), the Navy (Semar), the National Guard, and state civil protection personnel. 

Other villages affected include San Felipe Güilá and San Pablo Güilá.

Officials at the press conference indicated that more than 400 firefighters were battling the blaze, some of them on behalf of the National Forestry Commission (Conafor).

Some of the 400+ firefighters working to extinguish the wildfire in Oaxaca. (@GobOax/X)

An MI-17 Navy helicopter had carried out six water drops from its 2,500-liter capacity bucket from Saturday through 10 a.m. Sunday, officials noted, but no update was available beyond that.

Mountain residents had held a protest to demand that an aircraft join combat efforts, but at the press conference, officials stressed that water drops are only a small part of the strategy in fighting fires.

Officials said that 9,800 work hours had been put into battling the blaze as of Sunday morning, with 95% of the fight carried out on the ground and 5% through the use of technology such as helicopters.

Much of the on-the-ground work has involved setting up firebreaks and applying counterfire; additionally, there was surveillance to prevent the contained portion of the fire from getting out of control.

Officials also reminded communities to be extra careful when slashing and burning, and in a Monday morning post on the X social media platform, the state’s civil protection unit warned that the burned areas represent a risk for flash floods. “Stay aware of inclement weather if you are in or near an area affected by a wildfire,” the unit wrote.

So far this year, 35 forest fires have been recorded in Oaxaca, affecting more than 1,500 hectares, Magdalena Coello, director of the Oaxaca state forest commission, was quoted as saying in newspaper El Imparcial. At least two are active, including one in the jungles of Chimalapas.

With reports from El Universal, Animal Politico and El Imparcial

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