“What’s happening to our forests hurts, … the oak trees, the ocote pine trees, the strawberry trees and the grasslands. We love the vegetation; we have a lot of affection for it.”
Those are the words of firefighter Jacobo Rivera López after at least 350 hectares of the Tepozteco National Park in Morelos were burned by a forest fire this week.
In an interview with the newspaper El Universal, he recounted the fear he felt while fighting the fire and his devastation at the loss of forested land in the national park, which adjoins the tourist town of Tepoztlán.
Rivera said that the flames were 10 to 15 meters high, and he and his fellow firefighters didn’t know whether they would escape with their lives. At least six firefighters were hospitalized, one with third-degree burns.
“[Despite the risks] we had to fight the fire. We went up to the mountain because of the affection we have for the countryside and the vegetation,” Rivera said.
He said that he and many of his colleagues did indeed come close to losing their lives as the fire closed in on them. But luckily they all survived, some only because helicopters doused the approaching flames with water.
“I felt death. The fire came out of a gully and the wind blew it toward us and we were trapped, it was a matter of minutes [before we would die but] we managed to get ourselves into another gully, and we waited for the fire to pass,” Rivera said.
The firefighter said that his body filled with fear and adrenaline during his close encounter with the blaze, adding that he gained extra motivation to keep fighting it in order to save as much of the forest as he could.
The cause of the fire is unclear, but a lack of recent rain in the area allowed it to spread quickly. It approached some inhabited areas, but there were no reports of property damage or loss of life.
The forest fire, one of scores burning across different parts of Mexico, was fully under control and 90% extinguished on Thursday morning, according to the National Forestry Commission.
Source: El Universal (sp)