Exceptionally dry weather, low humidity and high winds are combining to make this year’s fire season in Ecuador's sierra one of the worst in recent history.
Dozens of fires in Azuay province have burned more than 300 hectares, according to the Cuenca fire department. Other provinces hard-hit by fires include Pichincha, Imbabura, Carchi, Chimborazo, Canar, Loja and El Oro and Maria Pilar Cornejo, National Risk Mangement secretary, has declared a fire emergency in the provinces.
In Pichincha and Azuay provinces, animal rescue groups have been organized to save wildlife injured and displaced by the fires. Several veterinarians have volunteered their services for the cause.
Esteban Torracchi, regional coordinator of the Ministry of the Environment blamed most of the fires in Ecuador’s southern provinces, including Azuay, on human carelessness. “I don’t believe there are many cases of arson but there are many cases of farmers burning their land in bad conditions.” He said he is working with police in several cases to hold those responsible for the fires accountable. “It is a criminal act to start a fire that goes out of control and we will punish those responsible."
Some of the fires were the result of indigenous rituals that, according to Torracchi, still continue. In Cañar tradition, fires were often set in the hopes of bringing rain during dry seasons. “Most people today understand that this is the worst thing you can do in dry conditions but we must continue to educate those who still believe in it.”
Historically, July, August and September are the driest months of the year in the Sierra.
CITY PLANNING BICYCLE RENTAL PROJECT AND BIKE PATHS
The Cuenca mayor’s office has announced plans for what it calls the Network of Urban and Public Bikes Bikeways, in hopes of reducing vehicular traffic in the city.
Working with a Spanish consulting group that specializes in urban mobility, the city said that studies are underway with expectations of having the first phase of the program in place within a year.
Project coordinator Alexandra Velasco described a bikeway network with a total of 34 bike rental stations and 90 kilometers of paths, including 20 that have already been built.
The cycling network will include routes on Avenidas 12 de April Avenue, Loja, Fray Vicente Solano and Primero de Mayo, as well as on other high traffic arteries. In addition, the network will include paths along the Rio Tomebamba, and within the historic district.
According to the city, the network studies will cost $60,000.
TEMPERATURES BEGIN TO RISE AFTER EARLY SEPTEMBER COLD SNAP
According to the Cuenca office of the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (INAMHI), the year’s coolest weather is behind us.
Hernán Parreno, regional INAMHI chief, said July and August temperaturas were not out of line with historic averages, although the first week of September was. “July and August are usually the coolest and driest months of the year for us, and this year was no exception.” What was exceptional, he said was the morning of September 3, when the mercury dipped to 3 degrees celsius (37 Fahrenheit). “That was the coldest we’ve seen in four years.” Since then, afternoon highs have been in the high 60s with overnight lows in the low 50s.
CORRECTION: FIRST EXPATS RECEIVE RESIDENCY THROUGH THE CUENCA VISA OFFICE
The first North Americans to receive residency visas through Cuenca’s new immigration office were Christoph and Lisa Neumann and their children Emily, Katrina, Micah, and Samantha. Their visas were issued August 17. We had previously reported that William Chester was the first to receive a visa. He was the second.
LASSO – LAS AMERICAS INTERCHANGE OPENS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
The Av. Ordonez Lasso and Av. Las Americas traffic interchange will open Monday, Sept. 17, almost two months ahead of Schedule. The project includes an underpass for Las Americas traffic and a rebuilt redondel for traffic on Lasso and Gran Colombia and well as access for Cuenca’s new light rail system, scheduled to begin construction in October.
Joaquin Cordero, Ministry of Transport and Public Works regional secretary said that final work to reroute untility and water lines would be complete by Sept. 15 while work to finish sidewalks and lighting would continue after the road is opened to traffic.
The Project, which will cost about $5.6 million, will be officially dedicated by President Rafael Correa in November.
Photo caption: A brush fire south of Cuenca.