Costa Rica — As part of their preparation to deal with forest fires, firefighting brigades recently took part in a second exercise conducted at the Horizontes Forest Experimental Station in Liberia.
These exercises seek to integrated forest fire brigades and contribute to the protection of natural resources in vulnerable areas such as Guanacaste.
The three-day training was attended by professionals with the National Firefighters Corps, the Police Force and the Ministry of the Environment, among others, who shared their abilities and knowledge. Each brigade has its own personal protection equipment, equipment and tools to engage in various drills.
During the dry season, the risk of forest fires in protected areas and urban region brush grows, due to high summer temperatures and, in many cases, because of lit cigarette butts thrown at the side of roads. In other cases, the fires are set intentionally.
During this time of the year, firefighter units respond to some 42 daily fires in empty lots, for a total of 1,092 so far this year. In 2008, officials responded to some 4,918 fires of this kind, plus 2,109 at trash-dumping sites.
Regarding forest fires, in 2008 there were 51 events of this kind, for a total affected area of 23,416 hectares. The year before the damage was bigger, with 80 forest fires taking place and 27,572 hectares being burned accounting for a 36 percent reduction in the number of fires between 2007 and 2008.
The main regions affected by forest fires last year included Guanacate, with exception of Las Juntas de Abangares and Tilaran; the Central Pacific; the Los Santos region; and the North Huetar Region (Upala and Los Chiles canton), where a drought extended the dry season in that Nicaragua border region.
Right now, Costa Rica has 912 firefighters to deal with forest fires.
The Firefighters Corps director, Hector Chaves Leon, asked citizens to avoid making fires for burning grassland or trash, as they could lead to large forest fires that could jeopardize peoples lives.
Thanks to prevention actions that have been taken place recently, the area and ecosystems affected by forest fires have been reduced in the past few years.
Together with the Ministry of the Environment and other institutions that are part of the National Forest Fire Commission (CONIFOR), the National Insurance Institute (INS) is currently implementing a campaign to inform the public about ways to prevent forest fires. In addition to distributing educational materials, the campaign also offers talks at schools and communities.
Additionally, the firefighting stations located in Guanacaste, the Southern Zone and others in high-risk areas have been provided with special equipment and new technologies to combat forest fires.