Fire fighters have nearly encircled stubborn blaze at Chirripó

Cuerpo de Bomberos de Costa Rica photo Fire fighters face rough terrain as they seek out hot spots.

The wind-fanned brush blaze at the Parque Nacional Chirripó is nearly encircled, but the fire fighters are exhausted from working in the rough terrain. So environmental ministry officials successfully asked the national emergency commission to declare an enhanced alert.

The blaze is in an area known as San Miguel in the Área de Conservación La Amistad. Fire fighters from a handful of agencies have been on the job since Monday. The enhanced state of emergency will allow officials to tap resources and bring in more fire fighters from other locations in the country, they said.

The state of emergency involves the cantons of Perez Zeledón, Coto Brus, Buenos Aires, Osa and Golfito.

Firemen Thursday had nearly completed a fire break of some 10 kilometers, about six miles, around the smoldering blaze. The location is about 2,600 meters or about 8,500 feet above sea level, so fire fighters are working in rarified, smoke-filled air.

There are at least 150 fire fighters on the job with the expectation that the number would grow to at least 200 today.

Fire fighters come from the Cuerpo de Bomberos, the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaiones, the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad and neighbors of the fire zone. The Ministerio de Ambiente has special fire teams for the parks and conservation areas.

A summary by the Cuerpo de Bomberos said that the fire fighters had to hike more than two hours to reach the blaze.

The fire break is about three meters wide, nearly 10 feet. Fire fighters are using chain saws, brush hooks and shovels to clear the fire break, officials said. They have to carry the water.

At about 120 hectares, nearly 300 acres, the fire is the largest, but there are others in the country. So far this year, fire fighters have faced 27 blazes, said the Comisión Nacional
de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

The current blaze cannot be attacked from the air because of the strong winds, said the emergency commission.

The park is north and east of San Isidro de El General in the Talamanca mountains. Chirripó peak is the tallest mountain in Costa Rica.

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