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Volunteer firefighters mobilize to protect Nosara from wildfires

March 18, 2019

Fueled by strong winds and unusually dry conditions, wildfires near Nosara, Guanacaste have forced a community of volunteer firefighters to mobilize for their town’s safety.

Bomberos de Nosara, a volunteer group that does everything from animal relocations to firefighting, has been working since Thursday evening to contain a blaze that started in the hills near the beach town.

Families and businesses in Nosara have needed to evacuate, and Bomberos de Nosara continues to request support to fight the fires.

“The fire started on Thursday, and it grew quickly due to the strong winds,” Agnes Pinheiro, an administrator with Bomberos de Nosara, told The Tico Times. “The only thing the firefighters can do right now is to try and control the fire and protect houses.”

Bomberos de Nosara is a volunteer organization that is not affiliated with the Firefighters Corps, which is part of the National Insurance Institute (INS). The closest Firefighters Corps station is nearly 90 minutes away by car.

Pinheiro said calls for help on the Bomberos de Nosara Facebook page resulted in immediate support from community members, local construction crews and hotel staff.

“The whole town is mobilizing,” she said. “When the Nosara community faces events like this, we are very good at organizing to help.”

The Firefighters Corps and forest-fire experts from Barra Honda National Park arrived Sunday and Monday, Pinheiro said, but Bomberos de Nosara was the first line of defense.

“The Bomberos de Nosara are incredible,” said Pinheiro, whose husband is a fire captain. “They go in there with very little gear or protection. They are like mavericks.

“But they manage, and the entire town adores them.”

Along with parts of the Central Valley and the Nicoya Peninsula, Nosara was affected last October by continued rains that led to floods and landslides. Tropical Storm Nate also caused floods in Nosara in October 2017. Bomberos de Nosara helped the community on both occasions.

Those heavy rains have transitioned into drought conditions in Costa Rica and throughout Central America amplified by El Niño. More than 300,000 people in Costa Rica have already suffered water shortages this dry season, and the National Emergency Commission has indicated that the number could increase.

Farmers in the region have also warned that food production is at risk due to drought and the return of the weevil insect, according to AFP.

The Firefighters Corps says it has responded to more than 7,500 emergencies throughout Costa Rica in 2019 alone. They recommend the following to help prevent fires:

  • Do not allow children to play with matches or lighters.
  • Do not throw cigarette butts in lots or in the woods.
  • Keep lots clean of weeds and brush.
  • Do not throw bottles or glass in the forest.
  • Do not start any burns.
  • Keep the surroundings of your home free from weeds.

The cause of the Nosara wildfire is unknown, according to Bomberos de Nosara.

Readers interested in donating to support Bomberos de Nosara can make U.S. tax-deductible donations through Amigos of Costa Rica.

This is a developing story. It was updated at 11:50 a.m. following an interview with Bomberos de Nosara. 

The Tico Times Costa Rica Changemakers section is sponsored by the Costa Rica USA Foundation for Cooperation (CRUSA) and Amigos of Costa Rica, proud to work with outstanding Costa Rican nonprofits around the country. Learn more at amigosofcostarica.org
Brought to you by the Costa Rica USA Foundation (CRUSA). Courtesy of CRUSA
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