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More than 500 hectares of protected areas destroyed by wildfires this year

April 8, 2015

Wildfires during the past week have consumed nearly 300 hectares within protected areas, bringing the total so far this year to some 530 hectares in 28 fires, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) said Wednesday.

That’s about on par with last year in terms of the number of hectares burned. But the figure will grow soon as the toll does not take into account hectares currently being affected by four fires in the provinces of Guanacaste, Alajuela, and Puntarenas, said Luis Diego Román, coordinator of SINAC’s National Commission on Wildfires.

Román said the most serious fire was in Guanacaste’s Diriá National Park. The fire began Monday and has destroyed over 200 hectares.

“The situation is worrisome because the fire is located in a very dry and difficult-to-access area,” Román said.

Staff from the Environment Ministry and the Firefighters’ Corps currently are battling against a wildfire that started Saturday in Sabana Oka, an indigenous territory in the South Pacific canton of Buenos Aires.

On Tuesday afternoon firefighters also began battling a wildfire inside Carara National Park in the Central Pacific, and later that day they received another report of a fire at Medio Queso de Los Chiles, a community close to the border with Nicaragua.

Currently there are no official reports of how many hectares have been affected in the last three fires, Román said.

Last year, a total of 139 wildfires burned approximately 30,440 hectares across Costa Rica. Eighty-eight of the fires were within protected areas.

The Fire Department launched a media campaign in February to raise awareness about wildfires, which usually increase in frequency during the dry season from December to April.

Wildfires so far this year, and for the same period last year, have burned only about one-fifth the number of acres burned during the same periods in 2012 and 2013, according to SINAC data.

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