Huge Fire Threatens Nature Reserve in Colombia

Huge Fire Threatens Nature Reserve in Colombia

08 February 2010

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Colombia —  The forest fire affecting an enormous mountainous area in the northeastern Colombian province of Boyaca since last week is now threatening the Iguaque nature reserve, emergency management officials said on Sunday.

More than 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of native forest have been destroyed by the fire, 800 of them in the Iguaque flora and fauna sanctuary, in the jurisdiction of the municipalities of Villa de Leyva and Chiquiza, some 180 kilometers (112 miles) northeast of Bogota.

About 500 people, including firefighters, soldiers, police, emergency management office and Red Cross personnel, volunteers and Indians are working on the task of putting out the flames, which in some spots are more than 10 meters (32.5 feet) high.

Also participating in trying to put out the fire, when the winds permit, are air force helicopters.

The efforts on Sunday are focusing in a place known as El Papayal, which is in Chiquiza. In that area are several houses threatened by the blaze.

Colombia’s environment minister, Carlos Costa, who overflew the affected zone on Saturday, said that this is one of the most serious forest fires in recent months, and he expressed his concern for the Iguaque reserve.

A red alert remains in effect in the region, where a number of streams of water arise that supply several municipalities, national emergency management office chief Luz Amanda Pulido said.

“We have to keep working. There the issue of getting it under control has become exhausted … The wind, something divorced from human and technical efforts, has caused the fire to get started again,” Pulido said.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been forest fires in 313 municipalities in 23 of the 32 Colombian provinces that have burned about 24,000 hectares (60,000 acres) due to the high temperatures caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, the national emergency management office said.

Up to now, however, there have been no reported losses of human life as a result of any of the fires.

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