Fierce fires have torn through more than 2,000 hectares of protected areas in four fires in Costa Rica’s northwestern province of Guanacaste this week. Officials with the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) believe that some of the fires may have been started intentionally.
Another large fire in Las Delicias de Garza, near the surf town of Nosara, has spread over at least 300 hectares of land, threatening local communities. Firefighters are struggling to put out the flames due to a lack of water, according to regional newspaper Voz de Guanacaste.
But the fire is now 80 percent under control.
More than 140 volunteer firefighters have joined SINAC officials to beat back the forest fires in protected areas. Fires in Diriá National Park, the Corral de Piedra Wetland and the private nature reserve, Cerro de Jesús are all still advancing, but firefighters have quelled the flames of another fire in Barra Honda National Park.
All four of these fires appear to be caused by humans. Officials believe that the fires in Barra Honda and Diriá national parks may have been started by hunters and farmers seeking revenge against SINAC for environmental controls in the area.
“These types of fires very rarely start naturally,” said Mauricio Méndez, assistant director of SINAC’s Tempisque Conservation Area on the Nicoya Peninsula, where the fires are located.
“In this case, some of the fires were probably started out of revenge.”
The other fires were likely caused by residents burning trash or hunters burning forest to scare animals out of the brush.
According to Méndez, most of the affected areas have not burned in years, which makes the current fires stronger. The forest surrounding Cerro de Jesús had not seen a fire for 28 years, he said.
Preliminary investigations of the burn zones show 170 hectares burned in Barra Honda, 330 in Cerro de Jesús, 1,200 in Diriá National Park and 400 in the Corral de Piedra Wetland.
SINAC is asking that anyone who sees a fire or suspicious activity call 911.
People who use Kölbi cellular service can also donate to firefighter brigades by texting “Evita” to 2511 to donate ₡300 or to 2512 to donate ₡500.