Trees burn on the roadside in Baja California. Trees burn on the side of a road in Baja California.

Fanned by winds, Baja California wildfires leave 4 people dead, destroy 200 houses

State of emergency declared in Tecate, Playas de Rosarito and Ensenada

Raging wildfires in Baja California have left four people dead, destroyed some 200 houses and burned over 7,000 hectares of meadow land.

The state government declared a state of emergency in Tecate, Playas de Rosarito and Ensenada and put Tijuana on pre-alert as a result of the deadly fires.

The Defense Secretariat (Sedena) has implemented the DNIII-E natural disaster emergency response plan and evacuated 1,645 people.

The fires began on Thursday and grew out of control as a result of the Santa Ana winds, which have been reaching speeds as high as 95 kilometers per hour. They have completely burned at least 70 houses in Tecate, 50 in Tijuana and over 30 in Rosarito.

“The most serious fire is the one . . . in Tecate, in which preliminary reports state that 70 houses have been destroyed,” said state Civil Protection director Antonio Rosquillas on Friday. “Unfortunately, two people there have died, two were wounded, and around 60 families affected.”

About 50 fires have been reported in four municipalities.
About 50 fires have been reported in four municipalities.

In Playas de Rosarito, where around 30 houses were completely burned, firefighters found a man and his dog burned to death in the bathroom of a house that was consumed by the flames.

Classes at public schools and universities in the affected cities were canceled on Friday, and police closed highways in the area that were covered in a thick layer of smoke.

Tijuana Mayor Arturo González Cruz believes the fires to have been started by a trash fire at an illegal dump site that grew out of control with the winds.

The federal Secretariat of Security and Citizens Protection (SSPC) reported Friday night that the National Forestry Commission (Conafor) had contained only 35% of the estimated 50 fires. It is not known how much of the region’s natural protected areas have been burned.

Sources: El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp)

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