Quintana Roo forest fire season could be catastrophic

Quintana Roo forest fire season could be catastrophic

Playa del Carmen, Q.R. — National Forestry Commission (Conafor) anticipates that this year’s forest fire season could be catastrophic for the state of Quintana Roo.

With very little rain, Conafor officials say they have not had this level of heightened concern since the 1989 forest season. Already this year, 20 forest fires have been extinguished, damaging 1,400 hectares of land, a figure they say represents 50 percent of the total affected area last year.

Rafael León Negrete, manager of the National Forestry Commission for the state, explained that “We have active fires that we are dealing with that involves more than 200 people between Conafor, community brigades and elements of the Ministry of National Defense, as well as a helicopter and machinery, because the conditions are adverse, the wind is very strong with more than 1,400 hectares damaged compared to last year.”

Climatological conditions, lack of citizen awareness and lack of a schedule of agricultural burnings as well as null monitoring and application of preventive measures, are the main causes of fires in the state.

“I hope conditions improve to be able to control the fires but a difficult season is expected. Currently we have active conflagrations in Sergio Butrón Casas, Altos de Sevilla, Mahahual and another between Lázaro Cárdenas and Isla Mujeres on the mainland near the Biosphere Reserve of Yum Balam,” said León Negrete.

The situation is so critical that service providers in Mahahual fear that the fires, which prevail in the Costa Maya, limit the presence of visitors during the holiday season. Mayor of Othón P. Blanco, Luis Torres Llanes, says they need a fire station to reduce risks, recognizing that this fire season will be very complicated.

“We are not only worried, occupied with the fact we are in a season of drought coupled with high temperatures, we have areas where forest fires occur due to human neglect generating a fire of this kind,” he reiterated.

Of the 20 fires quelled this year, it is speculated that eight were caused by hunters and 12 by agricultural burning.

In Playa del Carmen, Yibi Méndez Jiménez, director of the Fire Brigade in Solidarity, says that the fire department attends up to 10 weed and forest fires each day, figures that have tripled since the last dry season in Solidaridad. He says that the majority of fires are caused by the hand of man.

“There are people who go into the bush to find firewood or to do other activities and at that time they make bonfires or smoke and throw their lit cigarettes in the grass,” he said .

“Up to now, we have attended 8 to 10 weed or forest fires a day in which we have worked in coordination with Conafor, Civil Protection and the Army,” he said.

At present, there are four active forest fires in the state that have more than one million hectares at risk.