ARGENTINA – Hundreds of firefighters battled to put out forest fires throughout the country this week, with the worst outbreaks recorded in Córdoba Province.
Thousands of hectares in the region were still aflame on Thursday, as efforts to quench the flames were hit by adverse conditions with high temperatures and strong winds. As of Friday morning, several outbreaks were raging in as many as nine provinces nationwide.
During the day, at least 10 planes and one helicopter took to the skies above Córdoba to study the path of the outbreaks and drop water. The worst fires were seen in the Punilla Valley and in Altas Cumbres, west of the provincial capital, local officials said.
In the Punilla, flames were thankfully beaten back from populated areas, with authorities saying that it was for now contained. In the rural area of Pampa de Olaen, however, fires continued to rage, devastating local pine forests.
On Wednesday, concerns had risen as flames creeped closer to the Bosque Alegre Astrophysical Station, part of the Córdoba’s Astronomical Observatory. The building and its facilities escaped undamaged, thanks to the efforts of firefighters.
Local firefighters have been backed up by national park workers, federal police officers and the Army in their fight against the flames. Unconfirmed reports on Friday said that at least two deaths had been recorded. According to the authorities, at least three firefighters were injured this week, with two suffering severe burns, while more than 30 people were evacuated from their homes.
Fires have been a major issue in several regions of Argentina over the past few months, with some areas suffering from a severe lack of rain.
Local firefighters have been backed up by national park workers, federal police officers and the Army in their fight against the flames. Unconfirmed reports on Friday said that at least two deaths had been recorded from the fires in Córdoba, with one body found among the flames. According to the authorities, at least three firefighters were injured this week, with two suffering severe burns.
According to a report from the National Fire Management Service, other outbreaks are active in the islands of the Paraná Delta, one of Argentina’s most biodiverse regions. In total nine provinces have been affected by fires, namely Santa Fe, Entre Ríos, Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán, Catamarca, Santiago del Estero, La Pampa and Buenos Aires.
Entre Ríos and Córdoba are the two most affected regions, with more than 165,000 and 48,000 hectares destroyed respectively.
Authorities estimated that around 95 percent of forest fires are started intentionally, for the most part to create new grazing areas for cattle.
At the end of August, a man was arrested in Capilla del Monte on charges he started an outbreak, which later went on to burn through 30,000 hectares in the Punilla Valley.