Wednesday's fire rages in Tulum. Wednesday's fire rages in Tulum.

Fire consumes 36 businesses in Tulum, 1,000 people evacuated

Investigators suspect a discarded cigarette or a short circuit caused the blaze

A fire in Tulum’s hotel zone Wednesday night destroyed several businesses and prompted emergency personnel to evacuate around 1,000 people.

There were no casualties, Tulum Civil Protection director Gilberto Gómez Mora said, but the fire, which is believed to have begun shortly before 10 p.m. and was already raging out of control by the time emergency personnel arrived at 10:06, stripped 36 business owners of most or all of their possessions.

“It was enormous. The losses were in the millions [of pesos],” he said. “Smothering the fire and avoiding that it spread was a titanic job. We didn’t have any loss of life, but there were certainly owners of businesses in shock, watching their entire life savings being consumed.”

No hotels in the area were damaged, he said.

According to Gómez, the fire currently appears to have one of two possible origins: either a discarded lit cigarette at a party in the area or a short-circuit of Christmas lights that were hanging behind a clothing shop in the plaza.

“We are doing an analysis,” Gomez said. “We detected Christmas lights. Some of them could have caused the short circuit and ignited a spark that spread throughout the businesses, which were all made with materials from the region.”

Gomez was referring to the fact that many of the shops, in accordance with regional tradition, use palalpa-style thatching on their roofs, which may explain how the fire spread.

Regarding the party, Gomez said that a cleaning woman for the plaza told Civil Protection about having seen a party in the area where candles had been lit and people were smoking.

“We found spent fire extinguishers. Some lit cigarette butt could have been the origin [of the fire],” Gómez explained.

The fire also damaged 10 living quarters, officials said.

Evacuations were hampered by the sheer number of people Civil Protection was trying to move out of the area.

Firefighters managed to put out the fire around 1:00 a.m. with request assistance from nearby towns.

Sources: El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp), Yucatan Expat Life (en)

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