Emergency alert issued over field and woods fires

The drought has turned much of forest, brush and grassland into tinder, and the national emergency commission issued an alert Tuesday because there are fires in many areas of the country.

The commission said that the dangerous conditions will continue until July. That is when rain is expected to dampen some of the forest and grasslands.

A series of fires broke out near Los Chiles and on the Nicoya peninsula over the weekend.

The commission, correctly called the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, blamed the drought caused by El Niño for the situation.

The areas involved are mainly in the northern and western parts of the country, including the Central Valley.

Two significant field fires were burning Tuesday near San José, and a field fire in Pavas already caused heavy damage to a series of storage areas and small workshops.

In declaring the emergency, the commission said that the affected areas were much drier than at this time last year.

Specifically listed were the Brunca-Los Santos area in southern Costa Rica, including Pérez Zeledón, the central Pacific, the Chorotega, which involves most of Guanacaste and parts of the Nicoya peninsula, the Central Valley and what is called the Huétar Norte, which includes Upala, Guatuso, Los Chiles and San Carlos.

Several thousand hectares already have been lost to fire near Los Chiles on the border with Nicaragua.  The Nicoya fire between the Naranjo ferry dock and Paquera threatened luxury homes.

The dry conditions are perfect for vegetation bursting into flames due to negligence or premeditated actions, said the commission. A summary cited vandalism and hunters, among other causes.

High temperatures continue to dry out vegetation and creating dangerous conditions, the commission said. As fire fighters found out during the major Pavas blaze, the drought also has cut the water supply used to fight fires.

This is an air photo of the Nicoya fire that was burning out of control Sunday.

This is an air photo of the Nicoya fire that was burning out of control Sunday.

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