Disasters & Accidents

Wildfire in Argentina’s Patagonia devastates more than 2,000 hectares

Buenos Aires, Jan 31 (EFE).- A forest fire in Argentina’s Los Alerces National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Patagonian province of Chubut, had destroyed 2,300 hectares of land on Wednesday, official sources from the park’s administration told EFE.

The fire has been burning since Jan. 25, and adverse weather conditions, especially strong gusts of wind and high midsummer temperatures, have at times interrupted firefighting efforts.

“We have another week of intense work ahead of us,” said Danilo Otaño, chief ranger of Los Alerces National Park.

Authorities confirmed to EFE that the fire broke out in two different areas of the park and that the causes remain under investigation as arson is suspected.

Some 250 personnel from the federal government, the National Park Service, and the provinces of Chubut and Córdoba are in the area fighting the flames in the seven sectors affected by the fire.

In addition, two water-dropping planes and three helicopters have been deployed, and an amphibious plane will join the operation on Wednesday afternoon.

According to the director of operations of the National Fire Service, Andrés Bosch, 70% of the areas affected by the flames are inside the protected area.

But Otaño, the ranger, said the fires have mostly destroyed transitional Andean vegetation and not the protected larch trees, native conifers of the Argentine and Chilean Patagonian forests that give the park its name.

Located in the province of Chubut, about 2,000 kilometers from Buenos Aires, Los Alerces National Park extends over 259,822 hectares, making it the fifth largest park in the South American country.

In 2017, the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in part because of “its impressive scenic beauty” and as “the habitat for a number of endemic and threatened species of flora and fauna including the longest-living population of Alerce trees.”

Alerce trees are the second longest living tree species in the world, they can live between 3,000 and 4,000 years and grow over than 70 meters high. UNESCO says they are a “globally threatened” species.

Tourist services at the park continue to be available, but the authorities recommend “driving with extreme caution” on the stretch of Provincial Route 71 that crosses Los Alerces. EFE

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