Forest Fires Rage Outside Caracas

Forest Fires Rage Outside Caracas

21 March 2010

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Venezuela —  Strong fires are spreading across the Mt. Avila, the towering mountain that looks down on the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. The blaze began in the mountain national park at approximately 5:00 pm Sunday local time (4:30 p.m. EDT) and Distrito Capital Fire-fighters unit reports that the fire has branched off in several directions, and had burnt over 16 acres within a few hours, and continues to advance.

Fire department chief Daniel Rivas, told reporters that approximately 60 staff members from the fire-fighters, Inparques rangers, and the National Bolivarian Guard had been deployed to fight the fire, and prevent it from spreading to other areas.
So far, the authorities have not been able to determine the cause of the fire.

Environment Minister Alejandro Hitcher, reported to media that personnel would continue to fight the fire through the night, with air support coming to reinforce their efforts early Monday morning, before that is not possible due to pilot safety regulations.

Mt. Avila has recently experienced numerous fires due to the drought that has stricken the country since the beginning of the year. Since last December, reports say that the mountain has suffered on average five fires per week, keeping fire fighters continuously busy.

The high incidents of fires has caused a gray haze to cover Caracas, a city of more than 4 million, particularly in the areas surrounding Mt. Avila. This gray haze phenomenon is formed by a combination of the smoke and the high air pressure, which is typical during times of dryness and drought. The haze has adverse affects on people’s eyes, breathing, asthma and other allergies. Residual smoke from this latest large fire is expected to worsen the haze.

Because of the drought and poor long-term management, according to many, Venezuela is also facing the prospect of a major power emergency as the country’s main dam, which is used to generate over 70 percent of the country’s electricity, has dangerously low water levels.

Mt. Avila National Park outside of Caracas, Venezuela
is again ablaze. This year’s drought has lead to almost
constant fires for the last three months.
The one shown here is from March 3.

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