Mexico Seeks Help from U.S, Canada to Battle Forest Fires

Mexico Seeks Help from U.S, Canada to Battle Forest Fires

12 April 2011

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Mexico — Mexico requested the help of Canada and the United States to try and put out the fire that has already burned more than 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) of brush and forest in the northern state of Coahuila, Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada said Monday.

“Never in contemporary history, have we (had) a fire that extends over practically 70 percent of the territory of the country’s fires. We’ve never had that,” he said in an interview with Efe.

He explained that the area affected by the blaze “is not solid forest” but rather “ecosystems that have lived for thousands of years with the presence of electrical storms,” like the one that started this fire.

The area is comprised of “environmental management units for the conservation of forest life” where there are bears, abundant deer, wild pigs and assorted wild birds.

The fire broke out on March 16 and it is still largely out of control of the 1,000 firefighters who have been mobilized and sent to the area to attempt to quell it.

Since last week, some 103 million pesos ($8.7 million) have been allocated to rent specialized firefighting equipment including a Boeing-747 cistern plane that can dump 76,000 liters (20,000 gallons) of water.

Funds will also be made available to rent four Air Tractor airplanes and six helicopters, as well as to buy tools, supplies and equipment for the firefighters.

In addition, the help of the United States has been requested since that government has considerable ability to deal with such emergencies, Elvira said.

Washington was asked on April 6 to provide “heavy airtankers” to dump water on the fire in keeping with a 2003 bilateral accord.

Quebec was asked on April 8 to send “specialized air equipment,” a request that will be broadened to include the other Canadian provinces, Elvira said.

The secretary said that the devastation being suffered by the affected ecosystems is “unusual behavior” linked with climate change that “is putting us to the test.”

“The conditions have been completely unfavorable for (bringing the fire under) control and it’s not only one fire that leads us to think about that but the number of fires that have occurred in southern U.S. states (like Texas, New Mexico and Arizona), where we share the same type of ecosystem,” he added.

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