Forest fires are a serious concern for Costa Rica, and this year has already seen an alarming number of incidents. Firefighters from the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) have responded to 34 forest fires, 20 of which occurred within Protected Wildlife Areas (ASP), and 14 outside the state’s natural patrimony.
Unfortunately, 593.75 hectares have been affected, with the Central Conservation Area and Guanacaste Conservation Area being the most affected regions.
To tackle this issue, SINAC implemented the Permanent Alert System for the 2023 forest fire season on January 15. This has strengthened early warning and daily detection actions through the use of satellite images. In addition, permanent watchtowers and temporary posts were enabled, and land and air patrols were launched to respond in case of emergency.
The root cause of 98% of forest fires in Costa Rica is human-caused, whether it be due to recklessness or vandalism. As Oscar Mora Montero, Coordinator of the Fire Management Program of SINAC, notes, there are several contributing factors that make the situation worse.
The wind factor, high temperatures, low relative humidity, and the current conditions of vegetation desiccation all contribute to an environment where even small fires or carelessness can have serious consequences for the environment, property, and the population.
SINAC is calling on citizens to do their part and raise awareness of the importance of preventing forest fires. Fire not only affects vegetation and ecosystems but also wildlife, destroying their homes and food and often causing their death.
Simple actions like avoiding burning garbage or leaves, establishing a firebreak around properties, refraining from throwing lit cigarettes or matches, and not leaving glass behind, as the sun can reflect and ignite the grass, can make a significant difference.
In case of emergency, citizens are encouraged to immediately notify the nearest SINAC Conservation Area office or the 9-1-1 Emergency System if they observe a forest fire within a Protected Wildlife Area.
It is vital that everyone takes responsibility and works together to prevent forest fires in Costa Rica, protecting the environment and the lives it supports.